Ep 64: Fatherhood, Forgiveness and Redemption with Poet Will Little
What you think is what you say. What you say is what you do. What you do becomes a habit. What becomes your habit becomes your character. And your character is what determines your future. (taken from Will Latif’s TEDx Talk: How to Become the Best Version of Yourself)
As June comes to a close, a month with a focus on Father’s Day and Gun Violence Awareness, I’m honored to bring you an important conversation that touches on both themes with poet, speaker, advocate and father Will Latif Little.
As you’ll learn in this episode, Will has a profound story to tell, one that began with an upbringing in a single family parent home with his four sisters in Philadelphia, PA. Without his father or a father figure, and impacted by his environment, Will began to venture away from the ideals he was shaped by in church, dropping out of high school in the 10th grade, and becoming involved in the Philadelphia drug trade and a shooting that resulted in the death of a young man. This ultimately landed Will in prison for a 10-20 year sentence on a murder conviction at the age of 19.
Fatherhood was a seminal experience for Will. It was the knowledge of becoming a father, during the time of his incarceration, that became a catalyst for Will to turn his life around, motivating him to get his GED and educate himself through reading books that enlightened him. Through that process, Will says that what he thought was passing the time actually helped him become a man.
After ten long years, rehabilitated and reformed, Will was released from prison to start a new life, as a free man but challenged by the difficulty of gaining steady employment due to his criminal record. Not wanting to go back to a life of drug dealing and gun carrying, Will decided to invest in a career as a barber. In his spare time, Will developed a program calledPoetree N Motion that would show young and older people how to overcome obstacles in life. And he began to share his story far and wide, taking the stage at a TEDx event, at public meetings where he advocates for education and emotional intelligence trainings, mentoring in the Philadelphia Prison System, and revealing his experience in a new award-winning documentary called Behind the Bullet.
It was important to me that this not be an interview solely about Will’stransgressions but about his whole life, his full humanity and his wisdom across all the E.P.I.C. guideposts. I learned so much from my time with Will…about the power of resilience, a strength passed from his own mother, the enduring possibility of forgiveness and redemption, the power of mindset, and about pushing through our discomfort, something Will challenged me to explore through the metaphor of running.
Ultimately, this episode is about hope and transformation…And I hope you’ll be forever changed, as I have been, by your connection to Will and his story.
With this special episode today, I close a series of conversations I set out to record on the intersectional impact of gun violence for the Women Podcasters in Solidarity Initiative.
This one differs from the others in that it is a deeply personal redemption story. A story of a man who took the life of another human being through gun violence and has come out the other side committed to educating others so they don’t make the same mistakes that he did.
It’s important to note that Will’s perspective and journey is uniquely his own, that he takes a tremendous amount of personal responsibility, and focuses his change efforts on building emotional intelligence. Will also shares that there is systemic racism, a justice system that is not always just, and environmental conditions that contribute to the issue of gun violence.
After listening to this conversation and exploring the links to Will’s work, I hope you’ll also spend some time with some of the other episodes I’ve recorded and with links I’ve included in the show notes to understand the big picture context beneath this deeply personal story. And to find your own path and commitment to dismantling systemic racism and gun violence. There is so much work to do.
This Episode is Dedicated by:
Vince from the While Black Podcast
Vince has always displayed an entrepreneurial and activist spirit. Since his youth, he has dedicated his time to those around him in hopes of bettering them while he better himself. It began by volunteering as a camp counselor from middle school through high school, and grew via mentorship and tutoring in college all the way to his membership role in the 100 Black Men and as an advocate for African Americans through his work on the While Black Podcast. Vince believes wholeheartedly the James Baldwin quote “To be Negro in this country and to be relatively conscious is to be a rage almost all the time”. However, he chooses to channel that rage into a place that allows him to change the narrative on black folks while he helps to empower those same black folks.
Earning his undergraduate degree in Civil Engineering from Southern University A&M in Baton Rouge LA (1999) and his MBA from Queens University in Charlotte NC (2005), Vince has gained valuable experience in multiple industries.
He has excelled in multiple industries and enjoyed a career spanning 20+ years with opportunities in Engineering, Consumer packaged goods, Corporate retail giants, and now the Social/tech industry.
In addition, he is a successful entrepreneur and founder of Aveo Big and Tall Golf Apparel which rose to become the #1 big and tall golf apparel offering in Golfsmith stores and was distributed nationally and internationally via various outlets including but not limited to Dicks Sporting Good, GolfSmith, and Golf Galaxy. He has since sold the rights to the Aveo name and divested from the company
However, he has altered his focus by aligning his passions with his promise and ensuring his time is invested accordingly as he focuses on improving the black world and the global community through and with black people. His latest endeavor is laser-focused on impacting and improving the people around him. Specifically, he is the creator and co-host of the While Black Podcast a podcast focused on empowering, educating, and inspiring African Americans to go and grow. While Black tells stories by, from, and for African Americans and pairs those stories with expert and credible guests who can communicate wisdom and success strategies helping us to achieve, accomplish, and overcome.
Check out the While Black Podcast here
In This Episode We Talk About:
How Will’s mother influenced him to be a hard worker and to build resilience
Will’s thoughts on the concept of a Hero’s Journey…why he thinks life is really more about being a responsible human being than a hero
How fatherhood became the catalyst for changing his life from within and other pivotal moments that he shares in his TEDx Talk
The story of forgiveness that unfolded after the brother of the man that Will killed entered into his barber shop
The illusion of power and the emotional intelligence and mental control Will believes you need if you are to carry a gun
Will’s reflections on the problem of police brutality, the need for emotional intelligence training for officers, and the belief that in order to have justice you need to be just
Biggest lessons Will learned in building a community through the barber shop and how he sees people of diverse backgrounds coming together in new ways
Poetry as a vehicle for self-reflection and the recitation of one of Will’s favorite poems “Look Into His Eyes”
Pushing past your limiting beliefs through a physical challenge like running
Mentioned from this Episode:
- Will’s TEDx talk
- Will’s Book: ICY: Inner City Youth
- Behind the Bullet: Documentary
- The Power of Forgiveness – A South Philly Story
- Story of Off Duty Officer Who Shot a Man with A Mental Disability
- Ep 55: From Grief to Advocacy and a Circle of Mothers with Trayvon Martin’s Mother Sybrina Fulton
Resources to Go Deeper On Intersectional Impact of Gun Violence and our Criminal Justice System:
- Ep 33: Beyond the Trauma: Legacy, Compassion and Change with Mothers Against Police Brutality Co-founder Sara Mokuria
- 13th and When They See Us from Ava DuVernay – must see movies to understand our criminal justice system and racial profiling
- Community Justice Action Fund Website – changing the conversation on gun violence by leading with the people closest to the pain of everyday gun violence.
- Black on Black Crime is a Myth
- While Black Podcast episode on Prison
- Women Podcasters in Solidarity Initiative
This Week’s Challenge:
For this week’s challenge, Will challenges us to run! It’s a physical and mental challenge to engage yourself in self-awareness he says. Challenge yourself and see how far you can go. This activity will help you shape your mindset to understand that you can reach your full potential. Do this when you’re thinking of starting a new project or a big event. This physical challenge will help you gain more clarity to reach your goals.
Learn More About Will:
Will Little grew up in a single family parent home with his four sisters in Philadelphia, PA. Without his father or a father figure, Will began to venture out. Traveling through the City streets, Will picked up bad habits and negative ideas, soon becoming a product of his environment. Dropping out of high school in the 10th grade, Will became involved in the Philadelphia drug trade and other illegal activities. This ultimately landed Will in prison for 10-20 years on a murder conviction at the age of 19.
During the time of his incarceration, Will decided to turn his life around, by first getting his diploma by way of a GED. While incarcerated, Will started educating himself to pass the time. He became a prodigious reader. In ten years, Will read a diverse spectrum of books that educated and enlightened him. What he thought was passing the time actually helped him become a man.
After ten long years, rehabilitated and reformed, Will Little was released from prison to start a new life, as a free man. He worked several odd jobs, but could not maintain steady employment due to his criminal record. Will was now unemployed with two children, an apartment, and a car note. Not wanted to go back to a life of drug dealing and gun carrying, Will decided to invest in a career as a barber. Will used one of his unemployment checks to purchase his supplies for barbering and learned how to be a barber while on the job.
In his spare time, Will developed a program in 2003 that would show young and older people how to overcome obstacles in life through understanding life’s trial and taking positive action. This program is called Poetree N Motion.
Since his release, Will has performed in famous places such as Love Park, Harrisburg, PA, for the Philadelphia Prison System, for the Philadelphia School District, and at Girard College. Will has performed at community events with the former Mayor Street, former Police Commissioner Sylvester Johnson, District Attorney Seth Williams, and for actors such as Charles Dutton, and Judge Mathis.
Will Little and Poetree N Motion have appeared on NBC News and well as on Fox 29. They also teach mentoring workshops with other organizations in the Philadelphia area.
Will has had numerous articles in the local newspapers Philadelphia Tribune twice, south Philu review four times, Philadelphia Enquire two front-page article in the Philadelphia Daily News which inspired him to write his autobiography, I.C.Y. The Life and Times of Will Little. Will also had a television talk show on Comcast channel 80 which aired for two and a half years. You can see a great forgiveness story that won a 2014 Emmy award on YouTube under The power of Forgiveness two south Philly men”
Will has received awards and citations from the Philadelphia Mayor’s Office, the Lieutenant Governor’s Office of Pennsylvania, former Prison Commissioner Leon King, Partners in Peace Award from State Rep. Kenyatta Johnson and the 2010 Lucien E. Blackwell Guiding Light Award, United Way Philly Roots award, is a 2014 BME award winner and many more.
Connect with Will:
Announcement for the First Spark Your E.P.I.C. Life Group Program
This summer, I’m excited to invite you to join us for the first group program version of the signature Spark Your E.P.I.C. Life series that I typically do in one-on-one coaching or in the Mother’s Quest Circle. The Group Program will bring you the same powerful sequence, in community, at a more affordable rate and at an accelerated pace, meeting weekly on Thursdays, beginning the second week of July.
If you want to be added to wait list to receive the link to all the details and the registration application as soon as it goes live, sign up here. Hope you may join us, and that together, we can help you clarify your future vision, assess your present along the E.P.I.C. Guideposts, and then move into action to more fully live your E.P.I.C. life.
Mother’s Quest Manifesto Give-Away
⚡️Have you been feeling a nudge to say “yes” to this Mother’s Quest Manifesto Challenge?
Here are some easy steps you can follow…in the last few days of this year’s invitation before our Give-Away.
👉 Join the Mother’s Quest Facebook Group www.mothersquest.com/community to find the “unit” for the Manifesto Challenge’s reflective prompts and live videos. It’s all waiting for you!
👉 Follow along with the “unit” at your own pace. Share your reflections along the way in the comments. Let us cheer you on!
👉 Give yourself some quiet time to create your own #oneminutemommanifesto in whatever way feels good…writing, art, photos, song. It can be simple and quick. Don’t overthink it. What matters most, as a guiding light, for how you want to live your life at this stage of raising your children?
👉 Share your #oneminutemommanifesto on social media with the hashtag. Tag me if you can to make sure I’ve seen it. Consider nominating a friend who would benefit.
👉 Tune back in on July 1st to see if you win one of the amazing prizes from Mother’s Quest members…everything from free courses, to a chance to have your manifesto turned into a visual creation from our resident artist Jen Jenkins Dohner
–Join us, share or tag a friend, or comment on how the #oneminutemommanifesto has helped you if you’ve already created yours.–
Would LOVE for more of you to join us in claiming, or reclaiming, HOW you want to live your life ✨🙌
A big THANK YOU to our “patrons” for helping to bring these conversations to myself and other mothers through financial and/or in-kind support:
Julie Castro Abrams
Carrie Caulfield Arick
Sage B. Hobbs
Titilayo Tinubu Ali
Carly Magnus Hurt
Mara Berns Langer
Jen Jenkins Dohner
Caren and Debbie Lieberman
Fran and David Lieberman
Debbie and Alan Goore
The Sustainable Living Podcast
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Mother’s Quest is a podcast for moms who are ready to live a truly E.P.I.C. life.
Join in for intimate conversations with a diverse group of inspiring mothers as they share how they are living an E.P.I.C. life, Engaging mindfully with their children (E), Passionately and Purposefully making a difference beyond their family (P), Investing in themselves (I), and Connecting to a strong support network (C).
Join our community of mothers to light the way and sustain you on your quest at https://www.facebook.com/groups/mothersquest/