The latest New Yorker of the Week says experience was his best teacher. It's why he's devoting every day to combating gun violence in New York City. NY1's John Schiumo filed the following report.
Shanduke McPhatter knows better than most about ways to combat gun violence.
"It's not one answer. It's more answers from everybody," McPhatter says. "Everyone has a way."
The former leader of the Bloods gang was first incarcerated when he was 16. He spent the next 13 years in and out of the prison system.
"We are dealing with a mental condition in our communities," he says. "A lot of people are raised with a certain state of mind that gravitates towards a life of violence and crime, and it's time to see something happen that's going to work to change that norm in our communities."
So, Shanduke founded "Gangstas Making Astronomical Community Changes." G-MACC is devoted to tackling gun violence by working at grassroots levels with families and teens.
As a gang leader, he focused on rivalries. As an activist, he works on finding solutions.
He'll visit with politicians, students. He'll stop to talk with strangers. Anything to get his message out.
"Our goal now is to show our communities, especially the youth of today, who are the shooters of today, there's a difference out there for them," McPhatter says. "There's better opportunities. There’s more to life than crime and violence."
"Soldiers like that, which is what he is, are our only and last line of defense for getting to the young people who are most at risk," said City Councilman Robert Cornegy of Brooklyn
McPhatter started sharing his new message six years ago. Ask mothers in East Flatbush who lost their young sons to gun violence, and they'll tell you that that message is resonating.
"They pay attention," said Maxine Lewis, executive director of the Carlton Locksley Foundation Inc. "Most of the young people want the life that he gave up, and since he been there, done that, he know that it's not as beautiful as it looks."
Shanduke's inspiration comes from home, from his twin sons, Iziah and Elijah.
"If he didn't change because of me, I'd probably be in same footsteps he was in," one of his sons said.
So, for using his past to create a better future, Shanduke McPhatter is the latest New Yorker of the Week.
FOR MORE INFORMATION
For more information about Gangstas Making Astronomical Community Changes, visit gangstamackin.com.