While I knew how bad my surroundings were, and how tough it is to make it out, I had a laser focus on achieving what was necessary to leave my community. In order to get out of this mess, I ultimately had to turn a blind eye to what was going on. I had to ignore it. And I felt like basketball was the only way I could get out of that wreckage.
Looking back at my childhood, I wish I would have just opened my eyes. I lived in a 95 percent black neighborhood with 80 percent of us living in poverty. Today, I realize that my achievements are rare for somebody from my neighborhood.
Now I am aware of the problems. We need to invest in our own communities. Invest in our kids. After winning an NBA championship, I was in the optimal position to help inspire my hometown. I brought the trophy back last August and saw that the people in my neighborhood were happy about it.
It meant everything to me that the people of Seat Pleasant showed up for my championship parade , especially because it was on a weekday in the middle of the day. Usually, people have to work and go provide for their families. I believe communities will blossom and our country as a whole will be better because of it. There are many great people who are trying to fight their way out of the struggle. But it is not an unattainable ideal. Sadly, back home there is little progress.
People are stuck in the same cycle every day, surviving minute by minute. I have been blessed to see the other side. Once given financial freedom, the world opens up. Your eyes open up. Every community needs resources, and those resources give people opportunities to do things they are passionate about and get their minds focused in the right direction.
It has a trickle-down effect: If I could give some advice to the youth of Seat Pleasant, it would be to find something that you love and do it as if your life depends on it.
If you put your mind to it, have faith and seek support, all with the foundation of a strong work ethic, the world will open for you. And once the world is open for you, then the conversations with close friends and family about how we can effect further progress in our communities will come from your own fulfillment, joy and freedom.
So try to find your passion every day. See what the world has for you.