Ghetto Game: Lessons from a Convict
(Crystal A. Proxmire)
Robert Dickerson was 23 years old when he was kidnapped by rival gang members, shot six times, and was eventually sent to prison for possession of 5 kilos of cocaine, which had led up to the kidnapping. He grew up in Highland Park and says that is just how life was in his youth – plagued with gangs, crime, drugs and violence that were impossible to escape – until he went to prison.
He spent sixteen years locked up behind bars, in places where the choice is even harder between being a good man and being a criminal. It took years of counseling and watching other young people making the same mistakes as he had – over and over - before he began to accept the fact that he could return to the outside world without falling back into the same traps. When he was given parole in 2000 he was determined to turn his life around. He got a job at Western Market, where he’s been for nearly ten years. He is a proud father, a hard worker and a good friend those who know him. People are surprised to hear of his past, but he feels important to talk about it.
“I want to show kids that might be in trouble that it’s not worth it. They can stay in school, work hard, stay away from drugs and have good lives. I got shot six times. I was in prison. They don’t want to do that. Believe me,” he said.
Dickerson wrote a poem in the last years of his incarceration, in which he speaks to the youth he would like to reach. He wanted to share this poem with the community so that people can realize that kids can get in trouble and we need to look out for them. He also wanted to show that people can change and deserved second chances. “I’m really lucky they got me a job here,” he says of his bosses Steve and Tony Selvaggio of Western Market. “They believed in me and gave me this job and I’ve been able to make it.”
He sends this message to anyone who think that drugs and gangs are a good decision: