A Lesson in Humility and Redemption

Kevin Williams (left) and Kwame Kilpatrick.

By Kevin Williams ONS Peacekeeper Having an organization within city government that can attract a public figure like a Kwame Kilpatrick is just good for Richmond. His story is one about choices, mistakes, punishment and accountability. His bad choices ultimately took him from being the mayor of one of the largest cities in America, to an inmate in Michigan’s State Prison system. That is a powerful story and can be a compelling message when you are as willing as Kwame Kilpatrick is to be completely transparent and honest about one’s shortcomings and failures. As part of the first Operation Peacemaker Fellowship Speakers Forum hosted by the Office of Neighborhood Safety and its Operation Peacemaker Fellowship Program, Kilpatrick, ex-mayor of Detroit recently spoke to a group of Richmond residents about his rise to the top spot in Michigan’s legislature at 25 years old, to mayor of Detroit Michigan by the time he was 31 years of age, the youngest mayor in Detroit’s history, to a lightening bolt fall from that grace because of a variety of poor decisions. Sr. Fellows of the program had an opportunity to hear Mr. Kilpatrick’s message and meet him at a national event hosted by the National Forum for Black Public Administrators (NFBPA) in Virginia Beach Virginia earlier this year. Afterwards they asked ONS Director DeVone Boggan to work to get him to Richmond to share his story with others that they believed would benefit from hearing it. The Operation Peacemaker Fellowship program is a transformative mentoring intervention designed for those most likely to be involved in gun violence. This intervention works to transform the attitudes and behaviors that have given rise to the selected individual’s involvement in gun violence.  The Fellowship is representative of those individuals who are most resistant to change and/or are chronically unresponsive to the traditional range of services offered or available in the Richmond community. The message: Young and old alike in Richmond need to know that life does not need to stop or end just because you’ve been to prison. As Mr. Kilpatrick said himself during his talk, “I had to adjust my principles and values to change who I was into the man I wanted to be.” He is a perfect example of redemption, which is as American as apple pie.  He took the worst episode in his life and chose to open himself up completely to learn, grow and share from it, in the hope that his pitfalls would not be repeated by others. For many within the community of Richmond, particularly those who the ONS serves, his story is their story. He embodies everything it means to be a flawed individual and how bad decisions can have severe consequences – however if you CHANGE your mind, your thinking, your actions, you can forgive yourself, be forgiven and contribute to changing your city, in fact the world. You can be redeemed! Many who left the ONS sponsored event felt like they had just been privy to a very personal revelation through conversation in a very public setting.  One member of the audience, a member of National Forum for Black Public Administrators (NFBPA), said, “it is always good for older men of color to connect in honest fashion with their younger generation of boys and young men, especially those who often are disconnected from such opportunities. Kwame Kilpatrick still has a lot to offer, not just because of the redemptive qualities of his story, but he is still working hard to aide and assist his community despite his flawed past.” What makes America so Great, is we collectively love second chances, and Mr. Kilpatrick is the epitome of what a second chance lived should be all about. The Office of Neighborhood Safety (ONS) is a non-law enforcement department within City of Richmond, which works with between 150-200 young men each year.
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