Powerful. The only word for today.

Gail Davis, 02 March 2011

We were told there were 57 boys in the facility. All are under the age of 18. All are from Oklahoma. Most are from the urban areas of Oklahoma City and Tulsa. Most of their offenses were gang related. For many, the next step could be a van taking them to a state or federal prison.

Andre Norman understands the crowd. He shook his head and said “let’s do it”. We went into the gym. The juveniles were wearing different colors of shirts. Each shirt lets the staff know at a glance their behavior patterns. Staff was spread among the kids in the bleachers. More staff was on the perimeter. I did not know what to do. Andre did. He approached the boys and shook their hands. All but one shook his hand. He was too cool.

I introduced Andre. I told the kids I have met lots of famous people but what impressed me most were those who keep it real and Andre Norman keeps it real. And that he did.

He connected. He called it like it is. He told them the recipe for success was simple: Time spent with professional instruction equals results. He told them that education makes you universal and not being educated keeps you local.

Their eyes lit up when this former prisoner talked about his life after he gained freedom. He told all the countries he visited. Suddenly the boys were raising their hands wanting to know if he was hiring.

At the very end, he added one last lesson. He said a man knows how to admit when he has done something wrong and is not afraid to apologize. At that point he asked how many boys had insulted a staff member. Then he asked them if they were man enough to apologize to that person. Suddenly they stood and walked all over the gymnasium giving their apologies.

And the one guy who was too cool to shake Andre’s hand? He walked right up to him … looked him in the eye and apologized. Then instead of handshake he got one of those man hugs.

I am incredibly humbled. I am so thankful that I was not born into a family that has a cycle that might have caused my son to be in such a facility. But I am acutely aware that does not eliminate my responsibility.

Andre says these kids are there because they are the unwanted. What can you and I do to help change that?

Tomorrow we head to Hollis, Oklahoma. Hollis is a small community of about 2,000 people. My sister, Janet Richardson, owns a business there. She is a big supporter of the community. She has arranged for Andre to speak at Hollis High School at 10 a.m. in the morning. And in typical small town fashion, flyers were placed all across town and everyone is invited.

Tomorrow night Andre will be at a community event starting at 7 pm at Western Oklahoma State College. Here is a link to that information http://news.wosc.edu/?p=893

Pay special attention to the poster that was created for this event. I really love it. It is extremely creative. I really hope all my hometown friends will rally for the event tomorrow night at WOSC.

This “Give Back Tour” has already given me so much. And that was just day one.

From the road,