A lot of the time people will say; “T. J., how did you get to where you got to?” What they don’t know is that I was born on the south side of Chicago. I come from the gangs. You know the Gangster Disciples and Insane Disciples. My mom was a junkie. My mom was a dope addict. She brought me and two of my sisters from the south side of Chicago to Memphis, Tennessee. I never knew my father. I never knew my father, never knew who he was. At that time I began to sell drugs and deal drugs at nine years old. Eventually, I made my ranks throughout the gangs, throughout the hierarchy in the gang world and in the drug world. By the time I was fifteen years old I had accumulated over a half a million dollars. I have seen someone shot quite a few times….shot, stabbed, beat up. I remember one closely that died in my arms. He was stabbed. By the time I got to the scene, when the ambulance got there, he was almost dead. I had this hard rough life. I had no parent, no mother there. I never had anyone come to a school to see me in a school play. I had no parental support, never. So the gangsters became my family. Those are the guys who helped me make my decisions through life as being a gangster. My whole thing, that’s all I wanted to be. From fifteen years old up until now, I did everything. At nineteen I ended up facing a thirty-five to life sentence. That was my lifestyle. I saw a whole lot of things when I was young. But facing thirty-five years to life, going into the penitentiary the prosecutor told me when I was in court, he said; “I wish I could charge you with murder because all that you have done was destroy people’s lives.” But I was there on a drug charge, drug trafficking.
I had a cell phone company. I actually sold her a cell phone. I met her in a parking lot. The first time I saw her, I knew that there was something about her. I just knew I wanted to stay in touch with her. So, I began to befriend myself with her. So, eventually she took my calls and we talked and everything. We became friends. She had no idea about my lifestyle of being a gangster, drug dealer and all of that. One day somebody saw me with her that she knew. He happened to be a narcotic agent. He was like; “Do you know who you are with?” He told her; “Do you know who that guy is? Do you have any clue?” She was like; “No, it is just a guy I met. He’s a cool guy.” He said; “No!” I was like; “He is lying on me. He must like you. He must be attracted to you. There’s no such a thing.” Eventually, she found out. At that time, she started to pray for me because she saw something in me that I didn’t see in myself.
When my brother was killed, I vowed to kill the guys who killed my brother. That’s all I knew. If you kill five of mine then I’m going to kill ten of yours. My brother got killed in Atlanta. He was on gang land. They found my brothers body. My brother was killed with three other guys. The first thing they did was shot off all four of my brother's fingers. Then they shot off his left shoulder. Then they shot off the left side of his head. What the detectives told my family was that they were trying to get him to talk but he never did. So, they tortured him, boom, boom, boom, boom….boom …then, they knew he wasn’t going to talk, so…BOOM.
Then I got a call saying; “Hey man, we know where these guys are. We know who they are. We got some information.” The guy who shot my brother in the head actually had a picture of himself that fell off in the blanket they had my brother rolled up in. They had my brother rolled up in a blanket, two trash bags and threw him in a garbage can. So, this guy was walking his pit bull. The pit bull snatched away and it smelled my brother’s blood. My brother had been dead for five days. So, we knew who it was. I knew where they hung out at. I knew the whole thing.
At that time, my wife’s brother (we were not married yet) but her brother got killed seven months after my brother’s death. This is the scripture that turned everything. She said; “Vengeance is mine sayeth the Lord.” My wife used to always say; “Vengeance is the Lord’s. Let Him do it.” My mother-in-law told me to go back. Psalm 27 says; “Wait on the Lord. I see it. Wait on the Lord.” That’s at the end of Psalm 27. That scripture stopped me from killing eleven people. At this time I’m still smoking blunts. I’m still drinking Hennessy. I’m doing all of this and I had an out-of-body experience. This is a true story. I went through the hardest time of my life. I had a whole lot of family issues going on. I had this big house in the suburbs of Memphis with cameras all around. This house had a big patio. I was sitting against the patio door. I had a chair that I usually sat in but I wasn’t on that. I was just sitting by the door on the floor. I just had my head down but I remember grabbing a Bible and just holding the Bible. I cried in it. This first time in my life that I ever opened a Bible, I opened it up to the passage (true story) where Paul was knocked down on Damascus road. I said; “God, I don’t know you. I don’t have any clue who Christ is. If you are real, Christ, come into my life today. Show me. If you did this for Paul then do it for me.” I had an out-of-body experience like the old man got up and walked out of my side patio door. Walked through the door, vanished! I never saw him again.
From that point on I told, (back then my fiancé) and them what I had experienced. I was filled with the Holy Spirit. I started speaking in tongues. It was like; Okay, it’s here! They said; “What happened?” So, I began to tell them the story but I really couldn’t paint the picture for them. All I know is that I saw the old man walked out the side of my patio door and I have never seen him again. From that point on I started fasting and praying. I had no idea how I was going to make it. I had no idea what was the next move. I separated from my gang maybe over two years. I know it was like twenty-four or twenty-five months. I stopped smoking and drinking and I fasted with no meat, no bread, no pasta and no sweets. I did that for two years and four months. Once I began to learn the beginning of reading, I stayed in the book of Acts because now I’m relating to Paul as a gangster. This dude right here, God let this dude live. You know what I’m saying? I did nothing compared to him (to me). But He let this dude live so I have got to research this dude. I got to find out who this gangster is.
If I’m speaking or teaching around the country folks are like; “You sound like Paul.” They have always said that; “You sound like the Apostle Paul.” You know, because that’s what happened to me. It stopped me from killing eleven people. So, now today as I sit before your listening audience and tell you it has been fifteen years and four months that I have been doing prevention intervention law enforcement faith-based and community awareness. So, every time I get a chance to speak to preach to teach to motivate to encourage because I know that life is redemption.
I’m living my dream because I get to talk to children and I get to talk to people. So, it’s like I’m ministering but I’m just hiding behind the title of Prevention Intervention Specialist. But I get a chance to pray for folks. It’s just like before I left Memphis we have what’s called the Youth Crime Watch. I just ministered to over a thousand children and law enforcement. I get a chance to pray and talk. I have a casket there. I bring a casket in and put a mirror inside of the casket. I have people walk by and look at it and say; “I should have been in here a long time ago but praise be to God I am here. In my sock right now as we stand in this studio I have a sock full of anointing oil. I pass out anointing oil all day long with a mustard seed in it because if we have the faith of a mustard seed…I have seen that I am not supposed to be here. All that I have to do is look back over my life and see how far God has brought me. Thirty-five years of life, ten years of parole, and to be sitting in your studio talking about the Holy Ghost and talking about the Holy Spirit. Man, I have been around the world three times and spoke to everybody twice. When I’m sitting up in Washington D.C. talking to Senators and talking to Congressmen and telling them this is how we can fix America …then you know there is a God.