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LUCKY MOVES: Path of Redemption Takes Gangbanger from a Menace to Society to a Mentor of Men

By Sylvia Dunnavant Hines

Specialists Antong Lucky
As President of Urban Specialists, Antong Lucky, has turned his prison sentence into a passion for helping to empower and encourage communities.

The road to redemption for Antong Lucky was paved with prison, pain, and past gangbanging.

Lucky’s turning point came on May 21, 1997, as he was standing before a Dallas County judge. During that brief period, years of bad decisions began to roll across his mind like a fast-action movie.

As he waited for the verdict, he unsuccessfully scrambled for words to inform the judge that he wasn’t the person on the arrest documents.

“I was fully expecting to go home that day. Then I heard the judge say that I was a menace to society,” recalled Lucky. “While he was sentencing me to prison, I was having a conversation in my head. I just wanted him to know that the person on the papers he was looking at was not me. I needed him to know that I was just trying to survive the vicious world of the streets, but I was really a good kid.”

The words that were in his head never became audible. The only words that the judge had to go by were already written down, and the reports depicted a troubled youth from the age of 13. Lucky’s life of turmoil highlighted violence, drug dealing, and his leadership in the Dallas 415 Blood Gang.

Those reports led to a seven-year prison sentence, only two weeks after the birth of his daughter.

“The entire time I was standing before the judge, I was trying to figure out how I went from a straight A student to being called a menace to society. I was also afraid to go to prison,” said Lucky.

As he examined his past, there was no doubt that a series of events had navigated this East Dallas native to this unfortunate fate. This included his father being given a 50-year prison sentence when he was only nine months old.

“My mother decided to close that chapter in her life after my dad went to jail. She was only 16 years old at the time. My dad’s absence and the lack of information about him caused a deep void in my life, which nothing could fill.

Antong Lucky
When Antong Lucky was in prison he was mentored by Willie Rae Fleming. As the current CEO of Urban Specialists he has made Fleming’s wife Candace a key part of his staff. Together they are working to eliminate violence in Urban Culture.

“Nobody took the time out to tell me anything about my father. As a kid seeing other children with their fathers made me bottle up a lot of stuff inside me that really needed to come out,” said Lucky.

With his mother working long hours to make ends meet, Lucky’s grandparents became his primary caretakers. In the beginning this became a successful solution for him, which caused him to get great grades in school.

“At first, I applied myself in school,” he said. “School was the only thing that I found refuge in. I looked at school as a hobby. I loved going. I also loved the praise from my grandparents when I got good grades.”

However, Lucky’s love for school was no match for the peer pressure on the playgrounds, and it was a struggle to survive the South Dallas street violence that he faced just trying to make it home every day.

“Even though there were some programs in the community, they were not focused enough or intentional enough to reach kids like me,” remembered Lucky.

Before long fighting was not an option, it was an essential part of his life. Surrounded by other single-parented homes, poverty, and the pressure to fit in, Lucky had to fight other boys in the community just to survive.

Even though he continued to try to get good grades, the struggle that surrounded him kept his life spinning out of control. Then a local violent act caused his life to take a turn for the worst.

“As I was dealing with the duality of my environment, there was an incident that caused my empathy to erode. A kid tried to shoot me, and a childhood friend jumped in front of me. She took the bullet for me. From that day forward, I was never the same,” said Lucky.

This incident made him feel that he and his friends needed to protect themselves in their neighborhood. Determined to combat a rival gang called the Crips, they developed the Dallas version of the popular gang, the Bloods.

Lucky’s prison sentence became a dead-end road that forced him to look at the motivation behind the 20-year-old man in the mirror.

“Although my actions had got me to this point, I didn’t want to go to prison,” he said. “I had heard too many stories about prison. On the day that I went before the judge, I started retracing all the decisions that I had made in my life. It was at that point that I realized that you are changed by two things, either the light or the fire. The heat of this situation was about to make me change.”

In an effort to get his life back on track, Lucky denounced his membership in his gang.

Antong Lucky was surround by inmates for almost 4 years.
Due to some bad decisions, Antong Lucky was surround by inmates for almost 4 years. Now, he is surrounded by his employees at Urban Specialists that are committed to helping him make a difference in the community. Lucky is surrounded by his staff: (L-to-R) Lamontria Edwards, Cameron Sweets, Jasmine Howard, Rod Givens, Candace Fleming, Corey Cleghorn, Tigist Solomon, Varonika Wilson.

“Luckily for me I met a brother who began to help me turn my life around. His name was Willie Ray Fleming. I was walking down the hallway when he approached me. He was 35 and had been in various prisons for 15 years. At first, he ran up to me and started talking. All I could think at the time was ‘who in the world was he .’”

Their brief conversation revealed that Fleming was from Houston. During that time Dallas and Houston men didn’t mix in prison. This connection would be the beginning of Lucky stepping out of the norm to bridg gaps.

That day Fleming gave Lucky a life-changing message. He said, “Little brother, if you can lead all these brothers to do wrong, you have the same ability within you to lead them to do right. You are a leader.”

The words echoed in Lucky’s head until he began a total transformation. Fleming began to mentor him and encouraged him to read books.

I started reading books such as The Falsification of Afrikan Consciousness, The Autobiography of Malcolm X, and the Destruction of Black Civilization. When Flemings gave me a new book, I would have to read it five times before we could discuss it,” said Lucky.

Lucky began to read 16 hours a day to educate himself about the many things that he had missed in life while growing up.

“The more that I read, the more that I realized there was a lot of stuff that I didn’t know about our heritage. Not just about myself but about our people in general. There was so much stuff that they didn’t teach me in school. I felt so dumb not knowing the stuff that I should have known.”

Reading helped to remove the blinders from Lucky’s eyes. He realized that even though many prisoners came from different backgrounds, they had more in common than they realized.

“Once your eyes are opened, you can’t close them, “ Lucky said. “Fortunately, I had money on my books. I would pay to have food cooked. Rather than throwing it away, I would share it with other prisoners.

“This was unheard of.”

Breaking bread with other prisons caused him to mend bridges that crossed racial and religious lines. After a while he was recruited to go to a maximum-security prison to help make a positive impact on the inmates.

Four years after standing before the judge, Lucky was released from jail. He was determined that his release would not just be about his own freedom. His mission in returning to the real world was to help men that were not in prison physically but were bound mentally and spiritually.

“While I was in prison, I kept seeing men that were 16 and 17 years old pledging their loyalty to the gangs,” he said. “This made me realize that I had to do something to impact young boys who were like me.”

Tileyah Lucky
Twenty Five year old, Tileyah Lucky, looks at her dad Antong with admiration for the work he has done in the community. She was only two weeks olf when he received a 7-year prison sentence.

Determined to be effective, Lucky connected with Bishop Omar Jahwar after he was released from prison. Jahwar was a community activist who had a history of helping curb gang violence. The two paired up to become a dynamic duo for intervention and community activism. They signed the first ever Peace Treaty in Dallas between gang members.

Over the last two decades, Lucky has turned his pain from the past to a promise to make a difference in those young people who are faced with the same struggles that plagued him.

As President of Urban Specialists, a nonprofit committed to strengthening communities, Lucky continues to be an advocate for inner healing and the reduction of senseless violence.

This month, Lucky will release a book penned about his life, A Redemptive Path Forward: From Incarceration to a Life of Activism. His book is available on Amazon.com or wherever books are sold.

“My story is not a get rich quick story. It is simply about what success means,” said Lucky. “Success is not how much money you have and what you can accomplish with things. Success is how many people that you can help along the way. At the end of the day, I want someone to say, because I met him, my life is better.”

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