I grew up in Charlotte, N.C. as an only child. My loving (18 year old) single mother did everything to stop me from running wild. She took me to Church, taught me right from wrong, but only God knew I was already gone. Thirteen years old, the devil got my soul. I never could have imagined that life could be so cold. With a gun in my hand, I thought I was a man, until I ended up doing over five years in the pen. (From 16 to 21)
Those were my transitional years – senseless crime, drugs and violence. I was not able to respect anyone else because I did not even have respect for myself. I was never taught how to treat others the way I wanted to be treated – the way I needed to be taught. I was taught by a courageous Black Woman who simply did not have enough time to perform the dual duties of a woman and a man. (Over 70% of other single mothers face similar struggles.) I really needed a man to teach me about manly things – to teach me how to be a real man.
Am I saying a woman cannot raise a boy to be a man? Absolutely not! Too many strong Black Women have successfully proven that it can be done. Countless single mothers have raised young black boys to be men. But, for me, when it came to an intimate relationship with a woman – that was something my mom never cared to talk about. She avoided the sex talks with the words of former First Lady Nancy Regan by telling me to “JUST SAY NO!”
But I did not say NO!
I said YES to everything but the right things – mistreating women, disrespecting women and men, and engaging in crime, drug dealing and violence. I could easily try to place the blame on my Missing In Action father. I could even put it on the 43.6% black youth unemployment rate or the 50% black graduation rate. But the true blame is on Cedric Dean. I made the wrong choice to say YES when I could have easily said NO.
But after nearly 19 years of consecutive incarceration – and in it a never-ending reflecting and regretting – I finally said YES to everything that my mother had ever told me was right. I said YES to protecting women and children; YES to being a woman’s man; and YES to accepting God’s plan for my life.
And as a result of transitioning NO to YES, I am no longer reflecting and regretting. When I changed my life with transparency, my circumstances changed and God’s grace and mercy gave me a 3rd chance to be a real man. And He’ll do the same for you, if you say NO to the wrong things and YES to principle-centered living.
I have laid it all down before God and for the last 10 years my life has been lived in transparency and acceptance of the responsibility for my former life. I have written over 15 books to show communities how to avoid, look for and stop violence, drugs and gang activity, In 2009, at the calling of President Obama, I launched Safeguard Atone Validate Educate (SAVE), which is now the largest prisoner-led movement in America dedicated to saving young people from premature death and imprisonment.
I have partnered with many other great organizations such as, Domestic Violence Wears Many Tags and launched Save a Child Month to help young black men be father, college and career-ready instead of jail-ready. January 2014 will mark our 3rd annual Save a Child Month initiative.
I implore you to continue to transition with transparency and touch someone else to make a difference.
Cedric Dean, a contributing writer for Young Men’s Perspective Magazine. The President of the Safeguard Atone Validate Educate (SAVE) Program, is the founder of Save a Child Month (SACM), as well as one of the world’s leading prisoner activists on human rights and social justice. He is the author of 18 books including the forthcoming: How to Stop the Killing (December 14, 2013 – wwwAmazon.com). For more information, please visit: www.cedricdean.com or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
In 1985, 13 year old Cedric Lamonte Dean established himself as a gangster in Charlotte, N.C. to earn money, power, and respect. As a teenage thug, Dean, or “Mean Dean” as he was known during the 80s and 90s, demanded ultimate respect on the streets. In turn, he has spent much of his life inside of maximum security State and Federal prisons. In 1996, just 23 years old, he was sentenced to Life plus 5 years for his involvement in a Federal Drug Conspiracy.
Nearly 18 years later, he has fully accepted responsibility for willingly terrorizing American neighborhoods and communities, and the sentencing judge’s mission is accomplished: Cedric Dean is the most active and reformed prisoner on the planet. There has been plenty of prisoner activist: Stanley “Tookie” Williams most notably – whom inspired Dean. But there is only one Cedric Dean and one SAVE (Safeguard Atone Validate Educate).
The interest in both reached an apex in January 2012 when the acclaimed social reform advocate joined with other prominent activists nationwide to launch Save a Child Month. Dean will proudly continue to combat juvenile delinquency to rid the world of genocidal levels of violence that is still endemic in many urban communities.
His Safeguard Atone Validate Educate campaign is also spearheading an effective International Community-Based Crime/Drug/Violence Prevention initiative that is showing promise in hostile zones, and it has committed more than 5000 hours to reforming prisoners. Based on President Obama’s signing of the Fair Sentencing Act of 2010 and Dean’s exemplary accomplishments, his sentence was reduced and he now has a 2020 release date.