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Meet Sekou

Sekou wants to help young Americans heal. He's on his way, with a little help from President Obama.

Meet Sekou

2018-08-23 12:20:00
Sekou turning combination dial on a locker

Sekou, ReEntry Program Participant

Sekou grew up in a small town called in Georgia called Waycross. He was raised in a religious home with six siblings. His mother worked two to three jobs to support her family, and that left little time for her to be around her children. “We raised ourselves,” Sekou recalls. “We were our own parents. It was a lot to ask of my siblings to step up and be parents.” With little guidance at home, Sekou looked to the street for answers.

“I was nine years old when I started selling drugs. At first, I did it to support my mom, but eventually, it spiraled out of control.” At age 22, Sekou was arrested and convicted, without trial, for conspiracy to possess controlled substances with the intent to distribute.

He was given back-to-back life sentences plus 30 years in Beaumont Prison. “The first few years I was bitter,” says Sekou, “and I focused that anger on those around me.” Sekou felt wronged by the justice system and angry that he had been sent into a world where he didn’t belong.

“I began to channel that anger into writing. I poured it all out onto paper — the environment that led me here and all the decisions I made.” Eventually, those writings started to change, and so did Sekou’s demeanor. He began to see his life differently and started to heal.

It was in his seventh year of his first term when Sekou found purpose in his incarceration. “I would see these young men come in so unaware, lost and full of rage. I saw an opportunity to help them.” Sekou started tutoring. He wasn’t paid for his time — he did it out of an earnest desire to help these men find healing in their own lives.

What started with a few pupils grew into a community of men changed by Sekou’s wisdom. His success was so marked that he was encouraged to consolidate his writings and curriculum into a book that could help parents and youth everywhere. His book “Thinking Is Good, Knowing Is Better” began to become a significant resource for fellow inmates.

Then something amazing happened. “I had this idea, that if I could get out of prison, I could use my book to impact lives across the U.S.,” said Sekou, “So, I wrote President Obama. I sent him the notes from my case and a copy of my book, asking for the chance to shape young people’s lives.” And in 2016, Sekou received that chance. President Obama commuted Sekou’s sentence.

Sekou sorting items at the St. Paul Goodwill Outlet

Sekou at the St. Paul Goodwill Outlet

Sekou was released from prison and moved to Minnesota. While living in a home for people returning to the community after incarceration, he was connected to the Reentry Program at GESMN. Sekou found employment working in one of GESMN’s retail locations. Later, with the help of our reentry staff, Sekou found a job outside the organization that was a better fit. Now that he’s secured financial autonomy, Sekou is going after his dream of publishing his book.

“I love Goodwill. I tell everyone about them. They helped me get on my feet and more importantly they believed in me. I want to thank everyone at Goodwill for all they have done for me, and with my book, I know I can change the youth of America.”

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