Andrew Collins believes in second chances so much he’s helping kids avoid needing them The former inmate launched Stain Your Brain while in prison to help save at-risk youth

When community activist Andrew Collins found himself facing prison time, the first question that went through his mind was, “How did I get here?” He leaves the moment that got him to his temporary fate as “making a bad decision by being at the wrong place at the wrong time with the wrong crowd.” That decision landed him a sentence of 35 years for second-degree murder, aggravated robbery and aggravated burglary. He served 13 years, five months and two weeks.

He was given a second chance. During his time in a West Tennessee prison, he launched Stain Your Brain (SYB), a nonprofit organization designed to meet youths where they are in an attempt to stop them from going down a similar path.

“When I went before the parole board, I had a plan,” Collins said. “I was told I was the first guy out of thousands of cases that came with a plan and stuck to it. As a matter of fact, I have been out for 12 years now, and to this day members of the parole board still check in on me and send people my way and give referrals and everything.”

Collins was riding in a car with a friend. The friend made a stop, went to a home and a man was killed. Collins faced charges because he was in the car.

“It was my first time being caught up, but I still had to pay the price,” Collins said. “Being at the wrong place at the wrong time with the wrong crowd can cost you your life; even though I wasn’t the triggerman, I was there. Our youth need to know that it will happen to them if they go down the wrong path. I am trying to save lives.”

Collins was 25 years old. According to its website, “SYB is designed to attack the growing epidemic of juvenile delinquency, at-risk youth and potential offenders through the lives of previously incarcerated inmates.”

Youths participating in the program gain encouragement through “real-life testimonies from real life situations that led to real life consequences.” Their main focus “is to present a message of hope. No matter what temptations they are faced with, we want to encourage, motivate, and help them stay focused.”

SYB is not only beneficial to at-risk youth, but it also gives former inmates the avenue to give back to their community by allowing them a platform to share their stories and placing them in a position to mentor.

The programs are presented in “raw and uncut” language that youths understand. SYB states that its vision is “Using realistic situations to relay the harsh realities of prison life, we believe, can deter juveniles from becoming delinquents and giving over to a life of crime. Stain Your Brain was designed to be confrontational (stain) as well as educational (brain).”

Collins believes that youths are more likely to listen and respond to individuals who have “lived the life” rather than traditional authority figures.

Bridgette Bowman, an attorney who works for the Memphis and Shelby County Juvenile Court in Memphis, Tennessee, where the organization is housed, believes programs like SYB are needed for the community.

“I think Stain Your Brain is a great program, but it wouldn’t be great if it wasn’t for people like Andrew,” Bowman said. “Stain Your Brain is great because you have an African-American male who lived the life in the system. It’s not a person who has gone to school and got a degree and has book knowledge. Andrew is one those people who is a good guy, got caught up and had to pay the consequences.”

Bowman believes the youths need real-life figures, not just storybook fake figures who might not know what they’re going through.

“Andrew had a great opportunity, he made bad choices and he had to go to jail for them. That’s a lot of the things the kids in this city are facing,” Bowman added. “Andrew went to jail as an accessory to the fact. The other part of the lesson is that whole adage we teach our kids, ‘snitches get stitches.’ Through Stain Your Brain, Andrew has the opportunity to undo some of the negative messages we’ve put in our kids’ head. Messages like ‘snitches get stitches’ have caused our communities to go to hell because people don’t want to open their mouths and talk. They have allegiances to criminals instead of their own standard of living, and we have to change that.”

Collins recently spoke to The Undefeated about his mission to steer at-risk youth in the right direction and his desire to give them hope.


Why are second chances so important to you?

I received a second chance. … I was blessed with a job as a data installer. The company saw what I was doing with the kids in the community and offered me a job. That’s why everyone who is associated with Stain Your Brain is so resilient. Everybody that speaks with me, they have been through something. I’m talking about ex-gang members and ex-gang leaders. Now they are grown men who received second chances at life. Now they’re married, they’re pastoring and giving back to the community.

We don’t look like what we’ve been through, and we don’t look like where we come from. We can sit amongst a crowd; they don’t know who we are until we open our mouths to give our testimony.

Why was it important to start a program like Stain Your Brain?

Well, I had just returned from a church service, and I was looking at the television and I kept seeing what was going on in Memphis. I knew I was going home one day, I just didn’t know when. When I was sitting on my bunk looking at that television, I said, ‘Lord, I need you to tell me, why am I here?’ I had a talk with God, and he revealed to me that I needed to keep as many kids as I can from making unwise decisions as I did. From that moment on, I knew that I wanted to use my testimony to educate the youth about perils of criminal life and let them know it is real.

I called my best friend, who is a graphic designer, and relayed to him the things I needed. After talking to my friend, I had everything I needed to start my own nonprofit organization. I had my own letterhead and business cards. It was important that I started Stain Your Brain while I was in prison. I didn’t want to go before the parole board without a plan. I had six different churches who wrote to the parole board on my behalf because they needed me to speak to the kids.

One of my main statements is ‘If we change the inner man, then the outer man is going to change.’ We teach kids to be independent thinkers, to be leaders and not followers. We teach them to think before they act.

How are parents involved in the program?

I meet with them on every third Saturday. It’s mandatory that the parents come in, meet us and talk to us. We tell parents that we really can’t help their children, we really can’t do this without you. We say, ‘If you want us to help you, you’ve got to help us so we can do this thing together.’ It takes a village to build a neighborhood.

We have to let parents and guardians know that we are not part-time fathers, we’re not part-time dads. We do what we do because it’s in our heart and it’s in our passion, and because of what God allowed us to go to and through.

Basically, the parents’ involvement is critical. We just don’t get involved and don’t deal with the kids if the parents do not get involved. And one of the main things is that a lot of the kids are being raised by their grandmother, their aunts, their sisters.

Do you think it may be certain generational issues are contributing factors to juvenile delinquency?

It’s a generational thing. We have several of the kids be like, ‘Hey, I’m not scared to go to jail. My uncle’s been in jail,’ or ‘My daddy been in jail.’ … If they’ve been exposed to it, then nine times out of 10 they’re going to tap into it in some type of way.

All that has a lot to do with the actions that they take, and it’s not going to change until everybody comes together. I tell it everywhere we go. It’s kind of like, poverty has a lot to do with it, but a lot of these kids have emotional problems they are coping with as well. They’re at home, they’re at school. All of that has a lot to do with their actions and their behavior. Of course, they can’t help what school they go to.

Meet Krystal Clark, the Junior League of Nashville’s first African-American president She plans on making JLN a welcoming place for all women

Being president of the Junior League of Nashville (JLN) was never a thought that crossed Krystal Clark’s mind.

Presidents were older and wiser with a tad bit more experience, Clark thought. Besides, she had been a member of this particular branch for only six years.

Ambitious and naturally curious, Clark stood out. And now, at 34 years old, Clark has the distinct honor of becoming the first African-American president of the Junior League of Nashville in the organization’s 96-year history, and one of the youngest too.

“It’s been pretty rewarding,” Clark said of her new position. “I get a little emotional sometimes thinking about all the good that’s coming out of the organization.”

Although news stories of Clark’s appointment were published in September, Clark and the JLN committee have been preparing for the official announcement since 2015. Clark spent half of that year as president-elect-elect, president-elect in 2016 and president for the 2017-18 year.

“[The presidency] didn’t hit me until November of my president-elect year, because that’s when I found out who was going to be on my board,” Clark said. “That’s when I thought, I need to get my life in order. I needed to get my energy together and solidify my vision. Before that, you’re training and learning things that you don’t know about the organization. But that November, it hit me that people who are on my board are now going to be looking at me for leadership.”

There were still things to figure out, but Clark had already begun to prepare for her exciting new role. Taking risks and chances on things that matter most to her wasn’t new, and becoming president would be no different.

Clark, who is originally from Portsmouth, Virginia, made her first big move once she accepted a job offer to work as a program coordinator for fraternity and sorority life at Duke University in Durham, North Carolina. Clark didn’t really know too much about the area, and she had no friends or family there. But this was an opportunity worth traveling for, and Clark accepted the challenge.

While in Durham, Clark was introduced to the Junior League after a league member named Kelly invited Clark and a group of young professionals out to lunch. Kelly believed the Junior League would be a great fit for the group and could help them navigate the world around them with the help of experienced women who would be there to lend support.

Since 1901, The Association of Junior Leagues International Inc. has dedicated its platform to helping women around the globe through volunteerism and improvement of communities. Some issues that remain a primary focus for the organization include pollution, illiteracy, domestic violence and fostering children without a safety net, according to its website. With the organization’s core values and mission in mind, Clark was sold.

Shortly after the meeting, Clark and a friend joined the Junior League. At first, Clark said, she and her friend naturally stuck together since they’d already known each other. But as the two began to meet other women in the organization, more friendships blossomed.

“Most of us joined because we wanted to meet people, so being able to be social with each other and do community service with each other, I started bonding,” Clark said.

Through the league’s events and community service initiatives, Clark also began to learn more about Durham and the environment around her. It was refreshing, given that Clark had not known much about the area nor anyone who lived there when she arrived after earning a master’s degree in college personnel from the University of Maryland.

After working at Duke for four years, the more confident Clark was ready for change. During the search for her next career move, Clark was offered a position as associate director of Greek life at Vanderbilt University in Nashville, Tennessee.

“My career is important to me, and I’m a pretty ambitious human,” Clark said. “I’d never been to Tennessee, and I didn’t know anyone once again, but I also knew Vanderbilt was a really good school and the interview was really fun, so I took a chance and went. I actually do love country music too, so I figured I’d go and see what happens.”

Clark said her goodbyes to her Junior League sisters in North Carolina and began her journey to Tennessee. As with North Carolina, Clark was starting anew. There were no friends or family members to greet her in Nashville, but transferring membership and familiarizing herself with her new Junior League family is something Clark looked forward to.

Clark spent time meeting the members, both newcomers and veterans, and getting acquainted with Nashville. Although Clark enjoyed her work and time volunteering with the group, she’d never thought about taking on a larger role in the organization.

“When I get involved in something, I commit to it,” Clark said. “I certainly wanted to play a role in the organization, but I didn’t think I would be president. I thought I needed to be older to be president, and I thought that I needed to be in the organization longer to be president. I guess it didn’t cross my mind when I first started.”

What stood out to other women in the organization was Clark’s dedication. She was one of the most active members. She eagerly showed up to meetings and asked a lot of questions — the right questions. She coordinated events and fulfilled all of her duties.

“There were women in the organization who believed in me,” Clark said. “Throughout my time in the league, there were multiple women who let me know they believed in me and that I should aspire to be more in the organization.”

One morning, Clark was taken out to breakfast by a fellow Junior League member who suggested that she put her name in the running for president. Although she hadn’t given it much thought at first, the idea didn’t seem as far-fetched.

“I took a chance and did it,” Clark said. “I didn’t feel like I had much to lose, so I did it.”

Clark is continuing to adjust to her new leadership position but has already identified some of her top priorities, including member engagement, member involvement and making their presence known.

“We’ve been around for 96 years, and we also created a ton of other nonprofits that are still up and running. Sometimes people forget that the Junior League of Nashville is a philanthropic and service organization. We want to make sure we’re at the right tables and in the right rooms to be able to continue driving community change.”

And most importantly, as the organization’s first African-American president, Clark wants all women to feel welcome.

“It obviously can be hard to be the first and the only and the different one, but I sort of owned the fact that in order for this organization to be great for tons of women, regardless of their social identities, I have to put myself out there and I have to put my story out there,” Clark said. “I really try to go out in the community and be very present, going to meetings and introducing myself to people, because I think that’s the only way we can change that perception.

“I think sometimes we have a lot of self-limiting beliefs. We think people are going to look at us a certain way or we think people aren’t going to like us or be rude to us, but I think you have to give people an opportunity to prove you right or prove you wrong. … The only way that I’ve been able to be successful is just by owning what I want and going after it. Sometimes, I think we’re our own worst enemy. And we don’t have to be.”

Bozoma Saint John just might be the most quotable woman on earth The Uber CBO and marketing guru shared her secrets — and hysterical one-liners — at the espnW conference

Bozoma Saint John is a badass. She says so herself.

“There’s nothing more badass than being who you are … I am a force of nature in fierce stilettos.”

That’s just her Instagram bio (@badassboz). While she shares a piece of her life with her social media family, there is so much more to Saint John.

In June she left her job as marketing executive at Apple Music to take on the task of boosting Uber’s image. Her job as chief brand officer keeps her front and center representing black women doing big things in the tech industry.

Instagram Photo

Her resume speaks for itself. She’s so skilled in the world of marketing, branding and technology that she was heavily sought after for her successful strategies by big names such as record producer and Beats co-founder Jimmy Iovine, who recruited her to lead marketing for the company.

The Wesleyan University graduate was also head of music and entertainment marketing for PepsiCo before heading over to Beats. Beats Music was later acquired by Apple, and Saint John became head of global and consumer marketing of iTunes and Apple Music.

After she stole the show at Apple’s keynote Worldwide Developers Conference when she introduced the new interface for Apple Music, Buzzfeed called her the “coolest person to ever go on stage at an Apple event.” Saint John recently spoke at the 2017 espnW: Women + Sports Summit, where she joined Cari Champion and shared her story. She talked about her career, representing women of color in the workplace and being your most authentic self.

Here are some of our favorite quotes from their conversation:

On innovation:

Nobody knew what in the hell we were doing. Everybody’s making it up. It’s called ‘innovation’: That’s the fancy word for ‘making s— up.’

Part of innovation is, fake it until you make it. Keep trying things, but it’s not just the random trying. I got receipts. I know what in the hell I really am doing. … It was partly taking things that I know, and then applying it to things that I didn’t know, and creating something new, some new magic. And having faith that this new recipe was gonna work. And not being afraid that there were some dips. That you can continue iterating on the idea.

On taking a risk with the iconic Apple Music ad featuring Mary J. Blige, Taraji P. Henson and Kerry Washington:

The message is always try to get to the widest audience. … As we know, there are ‘niche’ audiences who also need attention — I mean, it’s music, right? It’s like a universal truth.

You don’t need to be black in order to feel that moment [in the ad]. You’re with your friends — with Phil Collins! Air drums! We’ve all been there. You don’t need to be a black woman in order to understand that moment. And that’s the gamble, is that’s the universal truth: We’re human first.

On women not existing in a monolith:

We have abilities to do more than one thing. We’re complex human beings. I can wear a leather dress and still have an 8-year-old and wipe up the eggs that are on her face. Because we do it all, absolutely.

On representing an underrepresented demographic:

The weight of making sure that you don’t do anything wrong so that others can follow you. Holding the door open, and it is heavy. It is heavy. It’s heavy because it’s burden. It’s heavy because of the expectation. It’s heavy because you can’t slip. You can never let the door flip. And if you do, it will shut tight, and then you’ll be outside and everyone else will be inside.

On being one of the few women of color in tech:

I find it really difficult to maneuver, because sometimes the things that are given freely, the assumptions that are made when you’re not a black woman — the assumption that, ‘Oh, yeah, you got it. You’ve done this before.’ Then you have to prove again and again and again that you actually do know it, that you’ve done it, it’s hard not to be mad about it.

On doing the work when no one in the room looks like you:

I curse at home first. And then I go in calmly, [wearing] some kind of bright color to distract. ‘If you want a show, I’ll give you a show.’ And then you bring all the receipts and you bring the work. At the end of the day, you have to bring all of the work — the work that you’ve done that’s more in-depth, tighter, more brilliant than anybody else can bring. Because that’s the only way to ensure that you actually get the next shot, and the next chance.

On why she left Apple for Uber:

First of all, let’s count the black women in C-suite positions in Silicon Valley. Do you know any? So an opportunity comes, I must take it. I must take it. Because first of all, I do have something to prove. I have to hold the door.

Figgers Communication is sending satellite phones to help families affected by the hurricanes Freddie Figgers says he wants to help families communicate with each other

From the moment Freddie Figgers found out about the devastation caused by Hurricanes Irma and Maria, he knew he had to step in and do something. So the 28-year-old founder and owner of Figgers Communication sent Puerto Rico 500 satellite phones with unlimited calls, texts and data.

“The hurricane destroyed the entire island’s telecommunications network,” Figgers said. “We’re trying to do all we can to help these families communicate with each other, especially their loved ones.”

Figgers Communication is one of the nation’s largest African-American-owned cellphone companies and networks and is one of the few telecoms in the country that manufactures its own phone. Figgers designs his own phones and developed his network himself. Four years ago, his custom-designed phone, the F1, already had automatic anti-texting functionality and superfast charging.

According to Figgers, the SIM cards in the phones sent to Puerto Rico are fully activated for 90 days free of charge.

“We all need to do our part to make sure that Puerto Rico gets back on its feet. These SIM cards and phones will be distributed out in San Juan to individual families and at San Juan Airport.”

Figgers’ own journey started in the tech field when he was just a child with an extreme curiosity about computers. At the tender age of 9, he disassembled an old IBM personal computer that his father bought at a local Goodwill store. By the sixth time, it was fully functional again. He held computer technical jobs for the city of Quincy, Florida, during his teenage years, and by the time he was 15 he’d started his own business, Figgers Computers, repairing computers and installing wireless area networks. By age 17, he’d created a cloud-based hosting network that stored data for more than 70 clients: law firms, car dealerships and dozens of other companies. By age 18, he’d created his own computer operating system. Now he wants to use what he’s accomplished to help others when he can.

Figgers also designed a Voice over Internet Protocol network that transmits voice to and from the U.S. from more than 80 countries’ landline and mobile connections.

According to its website, Figgers Communication is a privately held telecommunications company owned and operated by Figgers, a software engineer, computer programmer and entrepreneur. The company provides cellular, mobile broadband, home phone and international calling services.

The company’s mission “is to expand the horizons to which to keep you connected to communicate. Enjoy seamless downloading and entertainment through wireless internet, which is much faster and cheaper than DSL. Providing nationwide coverage, we are proud of the fantastic services we provide. We embrace digital communication because we all are a part of the efficient and smart generation that does everything online.”

Next month, Figgers is releasing the F2 phone, which will be waterproof and shatterproof. But for now, his focus is making sure families in need have the communication they need.

These women are representing for black female magic They are on the rise and shining bright in new positions and/or new honors

It’s completely true. Numbers don’t lie, even if they can stretch the truth. The data floating around in recent studies show that leadership roles for black women in large companies are pathetically low. Since Ursula Burns’ departure from her post as CEO of Xerox in late 2016, no black women have stepped in to head any Fortune 500 companies.

According to The Huffington Post, consulting firm McKinsey & Company and LeanIn.org, the nonprofit women’s leadership organization founded by Facebook chief operating officer Sheryl Sandberg, revealed a study that shows that women of color (defined as black, Asian or Hispanic) “make up just 3 percent of executives in 132 North American companies surveyed … including JPMorgan Chase, Procter & Gamble, General Motors and Facebook.” Yet, these women make up 20 percent of the U.S. population.

But this is not going to be the place to pull out a “woe is me” card or bemoan the plight of women of color. Despite the numbers, there are some black women leading the way and continuing to soar in their careers.

Take a peek through the clouds as The Undefeated recognizes these amazing women for their achievements.


Zadie Smith

Novelist Zadie Smith

Brian Dowling/Getty Images

Zadie Smith will receive the Langston Hughes Medal from the City College of New York on Nov. 16 at the Langston Hughes Festival. The novelist, essayist and professor of creative writing at New York University is being honored for her body of work.

Rosalind Brewer

Rosalind Brewer

Paul Morigi/WireImage for Tommy Hilfiger

Starbucks has a new shining star. Rosalind Brewer is now the COO of Starbucks and remains on the company’s board of directors. Brewer is used to running things. She was formerly the president and CEO of Sam’s Club. “Starbucks is a culture-first company focused on performance and Roz is a world-class operator and executive who embodies the values of Starbucks,” Kevin Johnson, Starbucks’ president and CEO, said in a statement.

Police Chiefs of North Carolina

North Carolina is in the history books. For the first time in the state’s history, it has six black female police chiefs. Raleigh’s Cassandra Deck-Brown heads Raleigh, Durham has C.J. Davis, Morrisville has Patrice Andrews and Fayetteville has Gina Hawkins. Catrina Thompson is the chief of police in Winston-Salem, and Patricia Norris is the director and chief of police for Winston-Salem State University.

Natasha Trethewey

Natasha Trethewey

Bill O'Leary/The Washington Post via Getty Images

Natasha Trethewey, Board of Trustees Professor of English at Northwestern University in Evanston, Illinois, has been selected to receive the Heinz Award in the Arts and Humanities. Teresa Heinz, the chair of the Heinz Family Foundation, described Trethewey’s writing as captivating, powerful and fearless. “We honor her not only for her body of work but for her contributions as a teacher and mentor dedicated to inspiring the next generation of writers,” Heinz said.

Rhiannon Giddens

Rhiannon Giddens

Jeff Hahne/Getty Images

North Carolina native Rhiannon Giddens is a triple threat in the world of music. She has a sultry voice that gives contemporary folk music a taste of the blues. Giddens is the lead singer, violinist and banjo player for Grammy-award winning band Carolina Chocolate Drops. The 39-year-old recently won the Steve Martin Prize for Excellence in Banjo and Bluegrass, becoming the first woman and African-American to win the prize of $50,000.

Simone Askew

Cadet Simone Askew.

Cadet Simone Askew of Fairfax, Virginia, has extended her black woman magic by becoming the first African-American woman to serve as first captain of the Corps of Cadets, the top position in the chain of command at the U.S. Military Academy at West Point.

Katherine G. Johnson

NASA mathematician Katherine Johnson (second from left).

Kevin Winter/Getty Images

Katherine G. Johnson’s name keeps shining. A new computational facility at the NASA Langley Research Center has been named after the “human computer” for her work at NASA Langley during the seminal U.S. spaceflights in the 1960s. Johnson now 99 years old, is a phenomenal mathematician and one of the leading characters to find the light of recognition in the movie Hidden Figures. “I liked what I was doing, I liked work,” said Johnson.

Krystal Clark

Krystal Clark

Krystal Clark has been named the first black president of the 96-year-old Junior League of Nashville. The 34-year-old is the director of the Office of Student Leadership Development at Vanderbilt University.

Hispanic Heritage Month: Felipe Esparza laughs at his life in first HBO special ‘Translate This’ is the result of studying the comedy greats

Actor and comedian Felipe Esparza describes himself as raw with a real comic sensibility. His new HBO special, Felipe Esparza: Translate This, airing Saturday during Hispanic Heritage Month, captures today’s climate for Latinos in America, and it’s delivered in a manner that would make the most unassuming person laugh.

There are no real pauses in a conversation with the comedian, because he takes any available second to insert an anecdote that rings so true that you have to say, “I almost thought you were serious.”

Esparza finds humor in his life experiences, discussing topics such as immigration, his difficulty translating for his parents, being a once-not-so-great single dad while dating single moms, his current challenges in raising his blond-haired, blue-eyed stepson, and more. He knows his past was part of his journey that would lead him to this point, where he is able to share his story in a way that fills hearts with laughter.

The winner of Last Comic Standing in 2010, Esparza has appeared on numerous TV shows, including Superstore, The Tonight Show, Lopez Tonight, Premium Blend, The Eric Andre Show, Comic View and Galavisión’s Que Locos, where he made more appearances than any other comedian. His film credits include The Deported and I’m Not Like That No More, a feature based on his stand-up comedy, as well as his first stand-up special, They’re Not Gonna Laugh at You. Esparza is also the host of the What’s Up Fool? podcast that he launched in 2014.

Just ahead of his HBO special, he spoke to The Undefeated.


How did your project with HBO come to fruition?

I’ve always wanted to be a comedian and I’ve always wanted an HBO special because I saw Paul Rodriguez, George Carlin, Robin Williams, Howie Mandel — you know, all the greats — and I thought, like, I need to be one of those guys on HBO so I could be considered one day a great, or somebody to say, ‘Oh, man, he’s a great comedian.’ The verification of being on HBO, because HBO is part of my generation. The comedians before me wanted to be on Johnny Carson, you know? They wanted to be on The Tonight Show, and the people would be on The Tonight Show, then they’d be a little famous and that’s it. My dream was to be on HBO. I did my special with my wife. We produced it ourselves, and once HBO found out about me doing my own special, they got 100 percent behind it, and they wanted to show it on HBO, so we’re very happy about that.

Why did you decide to infuse your upbringing into your comedy?

I grew up in a gated community. The windows were gated, the back door was gated. No, I’m only kidding. That’s part of my jokes. A lot of my jokes come from my upbringing, because I grew up in the housing projects, so it was a very tough neighborhood. A lot of my jokes come from there. Once when a burglar broke into our house and they couldn’t find nothing to steal, they woke us up to make fun of us.

When did you know you wanted to be a comedian?

When I was a little boy, my friends played an album of Bill Cosby, and I fell in love with Bill Cosby stand-up comedy, and I wanted to be a comedian right there and then.

How did you overcome your addiction?

Along the way, I got into a lot of trouble. I was in a gang. I was into drugs, and I got into a lot of trouble and Father Greg Boyle from Humble Industries, he came to my house and he offered to help me, and he put me in a rehab for drug addicts for drug rehabilitation. I was there with a bunch of men. It was more like it was open for all religions, they were, like, nondenominational.

It was funny because on Sundays we would all go to different churches. Then at dinnertime, we would all be together again, a lot of drug addicts. It’s like, heroin addicts, I mean, people who just came out of prison, people who were out of prison from doing 20 years, and these are young men. Me, I was in my 20s, hanging around with these old guys. I’ve never been in prison. I’ve never been in jail. The only crime I committed was bringing videos back late.

He said, ‘Hey, guys, write down five things you want to do in your life and accomplish.’ I didn’t know what to write, so I wrote I want to be a comedian No. 1, of course, because that was my dream. No. 2, I like Olive Garden, so I want to go to Italy. No. 3 was to be happy. Four and five, I couldn’t think of anything else. I really thought that he was going to read these in front of everybody and judge us, but he didn’t. I just put it in my pocket and he said to bring it out whenever you’re feeling sad, or feeling down, or you have a lot to do, pick up your five goals and try to see if you can do at least one. I chose the easier one, to be a comedian, because I wanted to be a comedian.

How did you get started?

Back then there was no social media, so I had to do everything like a caveman. I had to go to the library. Remember the library? That place with books. I went to the L.A. County library on Fifth and Grant in downtown L.A. It’s huge! I went there when it opened, and I asked the librarian to help me find books on comedy writing. She introduced me to a lot of comedy writers, people I never heard of, like Steve Allen. I started learning from those guys, and then I started like checking out books of comedians like George Carlin, Richard Pryor, and checking out those videos and taking them home and watching them and bringing them back and picking up another one. One day I picked up a magazine called the L.A. Weekly, and it said open mic for young comedians, and I went over there and I did my comedy show. One of the first comedians I met was Jamie Kennedy, and then from knowing him, I started to know other spots to perform. I met other comedians.

What were your reservations about getting into comedy?

At that time I was worried, like … are only Latino people gonna laugh at my jokes? I was only performing in coffeehouses. Then I went to like other places, but mostly like, Latino people were gravitating to me. They were really laughing.

What was the best piece of advice you’ve received?

I asked Paul Rodriguez, ‘How did you cross over to mainstream America?’ Then we started talking about mainstream America and crossing over and being funny. He said, ‘If you’re funny enough, you don’t have to worry about that stuff. They’re going to cross over to you.’ So I took that with a grain of salt and I stuck to it, and here we are, Sept. 30, HBO special. That kind of advice helped me out a lot.

How do you feel about where you are in your life?

I think I started at the right time, you know? I was born at the right time where social media got big, and I was there when hip-hop started. I was there when the podcast world began. I have a podcast. Now I’m doing a sports show with a woman interviewing me. You know what I mean? I’m in the beginning of the best times. I’m at the cusp, man.

What’s been the hardest part of your journey?

The hardest part of my journey, in my opinion, is staying focused, because as comedians, we have a lot of time to kill. Like right now, if I wasn’t doing this interview with you, I don’t know what I would do. I would probably play Madden for the next four hours. A lot of comedians, they fall off the track. They start worrying about, ‘I’m not famous yet. I don’t have enough followers on Twitter; 12 people showed up to my show. My girlfriend showed up, my ex-girlfriend showed up with her new boyfriend and sat in the first row when I was performing.’ So much stuff goes through my head to be a better comedian.

What advice would you give to other comedians?

My advice to anybody who wants to be a comedian is if you really want to make it in this business, start your family at 39 years old, because this is a very selfish business. This business is all about me, you know? Staying focused and writing every day is one of the main things that I’ve done. I try to force myself to write at least one sentence every day, whether it’s funny or not.

Migos’ Offset honors late grandmother with $500,000 cancer fundraiser The rap star has teamed up with the American Cancer Society to raise money to provide access in underserved communities

ATLANTA — The Main Event entertainment complex was prepped and ready for attendees who began trickling in shortly before the beginning of the day’s event.

Large projector screens above the building’s 24 bowling lanes flashed photos of award-winning rap group Migos, quotes from the event’s leader and group member Offset, and a welcome message to guests from the American Cancer Society (ACS). Just moments earlier, Offset and ACS announced their campaign to raise $500,000 for cancer prevention, awareness and access to care in underserved communities.

Hours later, the colorful bowling lanes were occupied by artists, athletes and excited fans who were united by a cause greater than themselves. Of the attendees in the building, nearly all were affected or knew someone affected by the disease that claimed the lives of more than 600,000 Americans last year.

Fans huddled around a lane to the far left and watched as Atlanta Falcons wide receivers Julio Jones and Justin Hardy engaged in a friendly game of bowling. A little further down in lane 10, Atlanta Hawks teammates John Collins, Tyler Dorsey and Quinn Cook were occupied with their own friendly battle. Earlier in the day, producer Metro Boomin’ briefly dropped by to show his support. Offset completed a line of interviews with the media before joining his fans to shake hands, give hugs, pose for pictures and bowl with his supporters.

“It’s a blessing to have people support you doing positive things in 2017,” said Offset, 25. “With the help of the American Cancer Society, my fans, people who have lost someone to this or relates to this, I feel like it’s way over 500 million people who should be able to help. This is a cause that helps the world. It ain’t about you all the time.”

Offset’s motivation to start this campaign came from his grandmother, Sallie Ann Smith, who died of bladder cancer five years ago. Smith, whom Offset affectionately called Grandma Ann, had a close relationship with her grandson. Offset spent extensive amounts of time with his grandmother during the summers and relied on her maternal guidance to help him through life.

“She watched me when my mama couldn’t be there,” Offset said. “She was my daddy. She was the go-to person. If I was in trouble with my mama, I’d go to my grandma, and she always got my back if I’m wrong or right.”

Most importantly, Smith was a champion of Offset’s dreams to become a rap star long before the successful launch of his career. When he was feeling discouraged, Smith reminded her grandson that he was capable of achieving anything and encouraged him to chase his dreams and focus on his career to the best of his ability. Smith died before seeing her grandson’s career come to fruition, but Offset believes the start of this campaign to honor his late grandmother is something else she’d be proud of.

“I did it. I got it,” Offset said. “She wasn’t there to join me when I got it, so it was always like a hole in my stomach. I wanted to do something. I know she’s happy with this … she always talked about how this disease was killing people, how it affected a lot of people. I know she’s happy that I’m doing something to help the cause, and it’s from the heart.”

Offset was ready to turn his words into actions. With the help of his mother, Latabia Woodward, who has been an ACS volunteer for 11 years, and Sharon Byers, ACS’s chief development and marketing officer, the group examined its options in search of the best approach for the fundraiser. Prevention and awareness topped the list. Although the ACS has initiatives in place to help underserved communities gain access to medical help, residents of these communities who cannot afford proper treatment are still disproportionately affected by cancer.

Taking all of this into consideration, Offset, Woodward and the ACS worked together to develop a solid campaign that would be most beneficial to those in need. Within four weeks, Byers said, the campaign was put together and ready for launch.

“As soon as we talked, we knew the relationship was going to work out great,” Byers said. “We worked with the family, we worked with Offset on understanding the options within the American Cancer Society, whether it be research or prevention. He wondered how he could impact people.”

‘Check yourself and make sure everything is good’

Offset poses for photo with fans to launch the $500K fundraising campaign for the American Cancer Society on September 19, 2017 at Main Event in Atlanta, Georgia.

Moses Robinson/Getty Images for American Cancer Society

Attendee Eva Rodriguez, 20, knows all too well the effects that cancer can have on not only the patient but on the family as well. In 2008, Rodriguez’s mother was diagnosed with chronic myeloid leukemia, a rare but treatable type of cancer that affects bone marrow and blood-forming cells. When Rodriguez was a sixth-grader, her knowledge about her mother’s cancer was limited, but she was there to witness her mother’s battle against the disease. After Rodriguez’s mother went through three years of treatment and chemotherapy, Rodriguez’s parents moved to Texas to seek further help as she and her siblings remained in Georgia with relatives. In Texas, a bone marrow transplant was completed, but it failed.

“The doctors said there were only 15 people in the world that matched her,” Rodriguez said. “[My parents] came back after the three months of living there and for four years, they were just trying to find a donor. [Doctors] were saying we didn’t have much time left.”

Rodriguez feared the worst, but she and her family never gave up hope. Last October, the family received a break when they learned that another donor was available. Although the match wasn’t perfect, it was a risk they were willing to take. Two months later, her mother received a second transplant. In January, after eight long years, Rodriguez’s mother was pronounced cancer-free. Although new complications have formed since the transplant, Rodriguez and her family are still grateful for the help of ACS during her mother’s battle.

“It’s hard, but this is why we do what we do for the American Cancer Society,” Rodriguez said. This is why [fundraising] is so important. The treatments and clinical trials that my mom has come across and the bone marrow transplant, all the research wouldn’t have happened without the American Cancer Society. Most of this stuff has helped my mom through her journey, and that’s why I’m so heavily involved. That’s why I appreciate the people who donate because they don’t understand the lives they’re impacting every day.”

Besides the fundraiser, Offset is encouraging others to keep their health in check.

According to the ACS’s “Cancer Facts & Figures for African-Americans,” nearly 190,000 new cancer cases were expected to be diagnosed among blacks last year. African-Americans have the highest death and shortest survival rates of any other group in the United States for most cancers. Additionally, black people are also more susceptible to other diseases at a higher rate. In 2012, the death rate for all cancers was 24 percent higher in black men and 14 percent higher in black women than their white counterparts.

“I know sometimes you might be scared … but you gotta get over that,” Offset said. “It’s the best for you. I can’t make anyone do it, but I feel like it’s the best thing to do to check yourself and make sure everything is good.”

‘Do it for the culture’

After nearly four hours of bowling fun and donation collections, attendees grabbed last-minute pictures with the athletes and artists as the event came to a close. Although this was only the beginning of the fundraiser, the best part is that the $500,000 goal of the campaign will continue, even after it has been reached.

“We’re gonna keep going,” Byers said. “We’ve got lives to save, and [Offset] knows that. He’s very passionate about it and really wants to raise as much as he can, so we’re excited and we could not be more honored to have him. We can call Offset one of our researchers out there trying to get prevention out.”

Offset hopes the use of his platform will help show his fans, particularly the younger generation, that they can also make a difference.

“My platform helps because I’m a big face to the young people,” Offset said. “It’s not a lot of young people that’s trying to help the American Cancer Society right now, that I know of, in rap music [who are influencers]. A lot of kids can relate to me because I haven’t had a perfect life. … With $500,000, you can make a difference in lives and you can have a real impact. It’s a realistic number.

“Do it for the culture. I want the young folks to do it. Instead of those new Jordans, try to help somebody to stay alive.”

Meet Angel Rich, the entrepreneur whose app tackles financial literacy for youth She’s being called the black Steve Jobs despite the challenges of being a woman in the tech biz

Financial literacy among youth is a necessity in today’s global world. To meet that need, entrepreneur and Washington, D.C., native Angel Rich has turned her passion into an app, and she’s getting recognized for it.

Rich, a Hampton University graduate, developed Credit Stacker, an app that teaches students about personal finance, credit management and entrepreneurship through games and simulation exercises. She’s won business competitions and has been featured in Forbes and mentioned by former first lady Michelle Obama’s organization, and her notoriety is continuing to rise despite challenges.

In 2015 in an interview with the business website 1776, Rich said she knew she wanted to start a company geared toward financial literacy to help youths when she was 6 years old. She launched The Wealth Factory Inc. in 2013, along with co-founder Courtney Keen, and created her brainchild, Credit Stacker, which she’d been working on since 2009.

“Our mission is to provide equal access to quality financial education all across the world,” Rich said in the interview. “We feel as though that anyone who has a dime in their pockets should also have financial literacy to go along with it.”

The D.C.-based firm has a financial literacy model that uses online gaming to develop skills that will help youths understand the financial gap between America’s haves and have-nots. She wrote the book The History of the Black Dollar, published in April, in which she explains this phenomenon.

One way Credit Stacker helps youths is by opening their minds to understanding credit reports and the scoring system using gaming and simulation. It has been enhanced to help teachers in classrooms customize students’ experiences.

The app is set up to receive funds from advertisers and contracts with organizations such as the Department of Health and Human Services and the D.C. Department of Insurance, Securities and Banking.

In May, Forbes posed the question “Could The Next Steve Jobs Be A Black Woman?” in a story that featured Rich. At that time the app had been downloaded 24,000 times. Now with more than 200,000 downloads, Credit Stacker is growing, and it’s poised to become one of the best products in the country dealing with financial literacy.

Rich won Prudential’s annual National Case competition for her technology-based marketing plan. She worked with the company as a global market research analyst, where she conducted more than 70 financial behavior modification studies. Rich parted ways with Prudential in 2012. According to Forbes, she’d raised $6 billion for the company and received a $30,000 bonus and an opportunity to have her education paid for to obtain a master’s degree in business administration from Wharton. She declined and went full throttle to run her own company and make her app a reality.

While she is succeeding, she’s said her major challenge has been playing on a level field as a black woman in business and technology. She told Forbes her “competitor raised $75 million. I won best of financial product and best learning game. My company raised only $200,000.”

Less than 20 percent of venture capital money goes to women-owned companies, and the numbers are slimmer for black women. According to a report by #ProjectDiane, black women represent only 4 percent of all women-led tech startups in the United States.

But this is not stopping Rich from reaching the company’s goals. According to the website Business Women, Credit Stacker was named the “best financial literacy product in the country” by the Office of Michelle Obama, the “best learning game in the country” by the Department of Education and the “best solution in the world for reducing poverty” by JPMorgan Chase. It has won first place in several business competitions, including the Industrial Bank Small Business Regional Competition and the Black Enterprise Elevator Pitch Competition.

Credit Stacker is free and available in 40 countries. It has also been translated into four languages. Despite the odds, Rich is continuing to press forward, and she has the support of people and organizations across the board.

More about Rich:

  • In 2010, Prudential’s CEO asked Rich to lead President Barack Obama’s Veterans Initiative Research Study, and her recommendations were announced in the State of the Union address.
  • In 2011, Rich conceived the first African American Financial Experience Study, which now serves as the benchmark across the financial services industry for marketing to blacks.
  • In 2012, Rich was recognized with a Presidential Achievement Award for Exceptional Research and Innovation for helping Prudential save $6 billion, rising from No. 16 to No. 4 in service in one year.

Former Ravens OT Eugene Monroe pushes for the use of medical marijuana in sports ‘Cannabis does help, and I’m not going to be shy about talking about it because of what people believe’

Former Baltimore Ravens offensive tackle Eugene Monroe still lives with the aches and pains of the game.

There are the minor twinges that come and go. Discomfort from joint inflammation and soreness are to be expected. After all, Monroe dedicated the better part of 18 years of his life continually putting his body on the line. But then there is the pain that requires therapy, lingering issues from misdiagnosed injuries that Monroe said he didn’t even know existed.

“It’s kind of depressing because here I am a year later, rolling out of bed with my back hurting like I had practice yesterday, every single day. And I’m only 30,” Monroe said. “Retiring from football was retiring from playing football on the field, but I feel like I still have to do all the things I did while I played just to get through my day and not have my knee be swollen every day and have my back so tight that it hurts just walking around.”

Although fine-tuning his body is a constant in Monroe’s life, he has found a natural way to alleviate the daily aches and pains without the side effects of various pharmaceuticals generally used for pain.

Cannabis.

Even as an active member of the Ravens squad, before retiring last July after being released by the team a month before, Monroe openly shared his thoughts about the use of medical marijuana in the NFL. Although the Ravens have never confirmed nor denied that Monroe’s advocacy was one of the reasons for his release, the message was clear that the organization did not back Monroe’s decision to openly advocate for the use of medical marijuana.

“I promise you, he does not speak for the organization,” head coach John Harbaugh said last offseason.

Whether Monroe got support for his cause didn’t matter much. The time he devoted to researching the positive impact of cannabis use and how beneficial it could be to those with chronic pain, especially fellow football players, was enough to keep Monroe steadfast in his journey to educate people.

“I reached a point that I realized I had been armed with enough real information. I’d done enough research and sort of got to a place where I understand that marijuana was healthier than most anything that any team doctor prescribed me,” Monroe said. “I thought it was time that someone who would be heard, a player that was active, talk about this because I saw guys that were retired trying to speak out about it and the message fell on deaf ears. I was determined to do what I thought was right.”

Another driving force was the fact that the execrable side effects from prescribed medication was something Monroe never wanted to experience again. One time in particular still stands out to Monroe. During the last year of his career, Monroe underwent surgery and was placed on injured reserve during his recovery. For the pain, he was prescribed oxycodone, an opioid used to relieve moderate to severe pain. Five days into taking the prescribed pills, Monroe felt spaced out and lethargic. At one point, while propped up in a chair, Monroe watched his daughter walk down the hallway of their home. He struggled to recognize her, and even questioned who she was.

“At that point, I decided I’d never take those pills again,” Monroe said. “They were definitely taking the pain away, but they were causing problems with me not recognizing family members and causing mental stress. Pills are addictive. I’ve seen it in my own household with my mom overdosing on heroin as a result of an addiction spurning from a prescription of pills for a car accident.”

According to the study “Injury, Pain, and Prescription Opioid Use Among Former National Football League (NFL) Players,” where 644 retired NFL players were surveyed, 52 percent used opioids during their NFL career, with 71 percent admitting to misuse.

“I continue to do this because it’s not just me and it’s not just the few players people hear about,” Monroe said. “It’s hundreds and thousands of guys who played football, period, who are dealing with things, whether issues related to potential brain damage or issues that they deal with physically, and everything else in between.

“Cannabis does help, and I’m not going to be shy about talking about it because of what people believe. At one point I hated cannabis. I grew up in a house where it was around all the time, but I also saw people get arrested all the time for it, so I had a very negative connotation for it and I believed all the bad things I was taught about it. Unfortunately, people believe that people involved with cannabis are bad. I do know it’s healthier than what we’re doing in sports in general now, and I believe that we can come up with a responsible way to implement it into sports.”

With football in his rearview mirror, Monroe is focused on educating, awareness and policy change. The former football player now serves as a board member of the NFL Players Association pain management committee, and also as an athletics ambassador for Doctors for Cannabis Regulation, a nonprofit organization that focuses on the legalization, taxation and regulation of marijuana in the United States, according to his website.

“We’ve actually reached out to the NFL to no avail, but hopefully through these continued efforts we’ll make a difference, whether it’s in the NFL, another league or just the overall impact we might have on marijuana access for people in general,” Monroe said.

A year and two months after announcing his retirement, Monroe has no regrets about leaving football after nearly two decades on the field. Family, advocacy and being healthy are now top priorities. The former tackle continues to train, and he uses cannabis every day before and after workouts to alleviate pain. Monroe said cannabis has replaced all of the pharmaceuticals he took before. There are no more anti-inflammatory pills, which he described as a “crucial tool” in his previous therapy.

As for football, Monroe doesn’t hate the game. If he happens to catch the game, he will watch to see how friends and former teammates are doing, and hoping they are healthy on the field. But for the most part, Sundays are now reserved for family time.

“I do struggle with what I feel about [the game],” Monroe said. “I’m not a person who’s doom and gloom on football. I think the future is really laid out, and it’s important to understand what that might look like and also try to fix it now as much as I can — as much as any player can. I love the sport, and I hope that we can make it healthier.”

Boosie Badazz is more than a rapper, he’s a survivor and he’s cancer-free ‘I was reaching out to the public because I needed prayer; prayer is stronger than anything’

One glimpse at Louisiana rapper Boosie Badazz’s schedule will tell you he’s a businessman on a mission. It’s his everyday battle with cancer and also diabetes that you can’t always see.

What fans witness on any given night of a Boosie performance is an artist who is passionate and dedicated to his craft. But off stage, beyond the bright lights, live mics and the fog of smoky nightclubs, Boosie, given name Torrence Hatch, battles each day to keep going.

There are the doctor’s appointments to ensure the 34-year-old is still cancer-free after being diagnosed with kidney cancer two years ago. There are the daily measures Boosie takes to control his Type 1 diabetes — insulin, three times a day — a regularly scheduled routine since his diagnosis 13 years ago.

He’s also been working overtime in the studio on his latest tracks and celebrating the successes of other artists he has managed, including rapper Yung Bleu, who signed with Columbia Records last month. The entrepreneur has even crossed into the food industry to promote Boosie Juice — his all-natural, strawberry-kiwi-flavored vodka — and pushing the Lil’ Boosie Louisiana Heat potato chips, produced by the Rap Snacks potato chip company. In between business ventures, Boosie is still greeting the fans and delivering high-energy performances to sold-out crowds around the country.

Despite that, Boosie Badazz remains as tough as his moniker and is keeping his health at the forefront.

“Right now, I’m probably healthier than I’ve ever been,” Boosie said by phone. “I’m just trying to stay out here and keep doing what I’m doing, but, you know, the things that I be going through, it just makes me stronger. I never fold. All this s— that come on me … it just makes me stronger. I been going through this my whole life.”

Boosie, a native of Baton Rouge, Louisiana, gained popularity in the early 2000s after signing with Pimp C’s Trill Entertainment. There, Boosie, known as Lil Boosie at the time, collaborated with artist Webbie, and the two released their first hit collaboration album, Ghetto Stories, in 2003. After the popularity of the first album, a second collaboration album, Gangsta Musik, was released the following year. Boosie’s solo album, Bad Azz, was released in 2006.

“My music, it does more than make people jump or bob their heads,” Boosie said. “It touches people. … My fans see me and they cry to me. I’m a friend to my fans, and that’s that different music. You can make music that makes you jump, but you’re gonna get tired of dancing. When you make music that sits with people and make people think, it’s different. I have a crazy following, and my fans love the s— out of me. You can’t tell them nothing about Boosie.”

As Boosie climbed to new heights in his career, trouble soon followed. In 2009, the rapper was jailed and sentenced to four years after pleading guilty to a marijuana possession charge and probation violation. Two years later, he pleaded guilty to attempting to smuggle drugs into prison, which added eight years to his sentence, according to NOLA.com. His sentencing prompted the social media campaign #FreeBoosie, started for and by fans who believed the rapper’s sentencing was too much. After serving five years, Boosie was released from prison in March 2014 and immediately got back to work as if he’d never stepped out of the scene.

“Jail made me smarter business-wise,” Boosie said. “I had to read books on music. I had to sit back and find ways to make it through. I’m way smarter than I was hood-wise also. I don’t do certain s— that I would’ve done back in the day. Once you get a little older, you wise up. Jail made me sharper and made me a more successful person.”

Boosie’s health scare

Smaller health issues, such as his diabetes, remained in check. But in 2015, the rapper experienced symptoms that were much more serious than he’d ever experienced. Physically, he wasn’t feeling well. Vomiting and weight loss were prevalent. Boosie turned to doctors for answers and requested a magnetic resonance imaging scan in hopes of solving his medical mystery. When the results came back, doctors delivered the crushing news to Boosie that his health problems were a result of kidney cancer. Unwilling to accept the news the first time around, Boosie opted to undergo another scan in hopes that there was an error with the first one.

“When I found out I had it, it was a hard time for me,” Boosie said. “I wasn’t feeling confident at all. I had just lost two aunties and an uncle to cancer. Anything else I’ll take it all head up, but with cancer, I was worried a lot because I had just lost a couple of my people. I ain’t never fight nothing like this. I was losing so much weight. I lost like 20 pounds in 13 days.”

With the news settling in, Boosie, going against the wishes of his label and family members, reached out to his fans. In an Instagram caption, which was later deleted, the rapper asked for prayers.

“I need all my fans to pray for me,” Boosie wrote. “Doctor just told me I have cancer on my kidneys. Prayer is power, that’s why I’m letting the world know prayfaboosie.”

“I was reaching out to the public because I needed prayer,” Boosie said of the moment. “Prayer is stronger than anything.”

Many of Boosie’s 4 million Instagram followers vowed to do as requested while leaving messages of encouragement and support under the rap star’s heartwrenching caption. There were others who not only questioned the authenticity of Boosie’s post but also accused the rapper of fabricating the story and wrote it off as a publicity stunt.

Boosie paused on the other end of the line before letting out a short, heavy sigh. A slight change in the tone of his voice indicated that those accusations still bother him today.

“I was upset when I heard that,” Boosie finally said. “Why would somebody want to go through some crazy m—–f—ing s—t like that? I went against everybody. I went against the label, my family to post that. This s— didn’t need to be in no damn closet. I went and typed it myself that I had just gotten diagnosed with cancer.”

Whether the messages were typed with ill intent, or simply submitted by stunned fans who were in just as much denial as he was about the recent diagnosis, Boosie didn’t care to find out. His health was most important, and surgery would be the next option. Although Boosie tried to remain strong, especially for his children, the ailing star was beset with worry.

“I was praying, but I wasn’t being strong,” Boosie said. “I was letting it worry me so much that it was taking all my weight from me. And the cancer was too. I just kept praying and telling God, ‘Don’t let me die yet.’ ”

A month later, Boosie underwent successful surgery to remove 30 percent of his kidney. Through it all, music remained his constant companion. Three weeks removed from surgery, Boosie remained too weak to walk on his own. So he rolled into the studio, writing music and recording tracks from his wheelchair.

“Well, when I was going through it, that’s when I made the Out My Feelings in My Past mixtape. I had a lot on my chest.”

Today, nearly two years after the grim diagnosis and successful surgery, Boosie continues to live life knowing tomorrow isn’t promised and remains focused on being the best version of himself. Although he admits that exercise could be more of a priority, Boosie takes his required medication to stay balanced.

Boosie is also looking forward to shopping around a movie he’s written about his life story, from birth till now.

“It took about six or seven months to put together,” Boosie said. “I’d write a chapter on the plane, or a chapter in the bed, whenever I could squeeze time in. Life is busy, but what keeps me motivated is giving my kids a better life, a childhood, than I had. Being able to bless them with the life I never had. I’m always there for my kids. That’s what brings a smile to me.”

Through it all, the rapper knows now that he wouldn’t change a thing.

“I used to always say I wanted to change this or that, but everything I go through, that’s what makes Boosie,” he said. “If I hadn’t went through things, then I wouldn’t have had it to talk about on a record. So I just feel like everything happens for a reason. I always feel like that.”