“I feel like every kid in Baltimore City is an at risk kid,” said Kevin Shird, Baltimore native and co-founder and President of the Mario Do Right Foundation, an organization dedicated to mentoring and supporting the children of substance abusing parents. Shird is also the author of Lessons of Redemption, a powerful new memoir that was the focus of the Urban Health Institute’s December “Baltimore Dialogue” series on Dec. 11.
At the final program in the 2014 series, Shird talked about becoming a drug dealer at 16, a major kingpin by 21, and then a prison inmate for 12 years. He credits the education he gained while in prison, along with a profound amount of soul searching, for helping him turn his life around. Now he works full-time to keep other young people from following in his footsteps.
“I had just been sentenced and I said ‘One day you’re gonna be back on the street. One day you’re gonna be free. What are you gonna do with it?” His answer was to educate others. “No kid is born saying ‘I can’t wait to be a drug dealer!’ It’s a process. It’s also a process to get him out.”
In his book, Shird describes a childhood in which the dual realities of poverty and an alcoholic father led him to seek respect, money, and a mentor on the streets. Once he became accustomed to life as a player—Shird refers to a drug dealer’s life as “the game”—he was afraid to consider any other course. It wasn’t until after several near-death experiences, the birth of his daughter, and time in prison that he decided the only way his future was going to change was if he took steps towards changing it.
He attended community college while in prison and eventually began to teach other inmates. Now he speaks openly with anyone who will listen about his experiences.
“I want to help people really understand the mind of the guy standing on the corner, the kid with one pocket full of drugs and a handgun in the other, who is scared to death. I was that kid. When we talk about policies, when talk about laws, we need to understand that kid,” he said, adding, “We’re not going to arrest our way out of this situation.”
In 2010, Shird organized focus groups to examine the issue of substance abuse. He also consulted with the Center for Learning and Health at Johns Hopkins and the University of Maryland Drug Treatment Center. Those efforts led him to launch the Live Right-Do Right program—a school-based substance abuse program for adolescents and teens in 2011. The program takes a holistic approach to educating and empowering youth.
When: December 11, 2014 - 9:30am-11:00am
Where: Amazing Grace Lutheran Church 2424 McElderry Street - Baltimore, MD 21205
The Johns Hopkins Urban Health Institute presents a new Baltimore Dialogue twice quarterly as a way to engage community members in discussions about living in Baltimore. This intimate forum is based on a book club format, in which everyone is welcome to join in the conversation. To be added to our mailing list, which includes announcements for upcoming programs as well as other UHI and community news, subscribe here.