In life, we all have choices. Sometimes you make mistakes and if lucky, you will get a second chance. A true opportunity to turn a negative into a positive is what those who have made some bad choices. I have had the opportunity to meet all of these great men who are the prime examples that failure is not ever to be an option and that there are no excuses. These men collectively have served over twenty years of time, that they will never get back but in interim they have made fabulous strides by being inspiring and motivating to anyone that they come in contact with, while showing that you can go from D.O.C to C.E.O
As the Principal Owner of TeamSuccess Publications L.L.C and Blight Doctor Properties L.L.C, Jemell “Casper” Hill is extremely passionate about entrepreneurship and helping others understand the immeasurable power of a determined mind. Jemell Hill spent over two decades of his life as a drug dealing/entrepreneur that would always go to jail and lose his investments in the process. After his last arrest, Jemell Hill made a declaration to himself and his loved ones that upon his release he would commit wholeheartedly to rebuilding his businesses righteously. Today, Jemell “Casper” Hill is happily enjoying his life as a family man, business owner, college student, motivational speaker, mentor and most importantly a child of Almighty God.
KG: What were your thoughts while incarcerated? What were your plans for the future?
JH: While incarcerated my most dominant thought was turning my life around and rebuilding my businesses righteously. My plans for the future were to show men and women around the world the fact that there’s a better way to win in life other than selling drugs.
Newark, NJ social entrepreneur, and consultant Jeff Billingsley is CEO of Cobblestone Multimedia, an independent multimedia company that is comprised of a music, film & television content production group, casting agency, and professional audio recording services located in Newark, NJ. He studied Business at Essex County College and Rutgers University in Newark, NJ, holds a Mini MBA in Digital Media Marketing from Rutgers University, New Brunswick, NJ and is a Leadership Newark Alumni. He currently stands at the helm of several apprenticeship programs for youth and adults in partnership with Rutgers University, Essex County College, and the Berklee College of Music City Music Network. At Cobblestone Multimedia Jeff also partners with Day 28 Films, ACE Media Corp, Indigi Music, NEWART Film, Newark Riverfront Revival, Ironbound Film Studios, Newark International Film Festival, The Newark Office of Film & Television, and is an Alumni Community Partner at Express Newark working on numerous collaborative global ventures. Jeff is a Senior Entrepreneur in Residence at the Rutgers Business School, Center for Urban Entrepreneurship and Economic Development as a Co-founder of the Newark Business Hub and is also the Assistant Director of Communications at Rutgers University-Newark
KG: Upon returning home, what was the greatest obstacle you faced with your re-entry process?
JB: The biggest obstacle I faced was being true to myself and not returning to criminal activities to generate income. I had to learn how to become a provider and father through legal activities. Not having cars, catching buses at 5 am, working odd/manual labor jobs was truly a humbling experience. My mother and my children’s mother knew that it was so easy for me to fall back into my past ways and lifestyle based on the things that I had acquired and the money that I always seemed to generate in the streets. They were the support system that helped me make a lifestyle transition. Getting into Essex County College wasn’t easy. I had to go through several interviews and supply a lot of information to get the initial funding from the Mayor’s Office of Employment and Training in the City of Newark, to gain access to move forward. Thank God for my family and one of my mentor’s, Ted Davis for believing in me when I was still very rough around the edges.
Raliq Islam hails from the Garden State, New Jersey. Being raised into a tight-knit family of hustlers, it was too easy for Raliq to turn to a life of hustling and crime. This destructive lifestyle led him to serve twelve years in prison. A natural born survivor it was then upon his sentencing, Raliq got the much-needed wake-up call, to finally make a change for the better, legally. Since being released, Raliq currently holds an Associate’s in Business, Bachelor’s in Business and currently working on his Master’s. He is also the owner of an online fragrance company and a budding real estate investor. He’s a father, uncle, brother and husband and in his downtime, he also enjoys working with inner-city youth through outreach programs designed to deter children from entering a life of crime. Currently, Raliq resides in Georgia with his family.
KG: I often hear ex-offenders say that they are just one bad decision from returning to jail, what is your motivation to stay focused?
RI: This is a true statement. My motivation first is my belief system, secondly, it is my children, and thirdly it is the memory of what awaits me behind the prison walls. Seeing the results of my positive lifestyle also encourages me to keep striving. The longer you stay away from the old you and see positive results, the less likely you are to return to that life because you know that you can make it another way.
Blacc Topp was born in Benton Harbor, MI and raised in South Dallas, Texas, to a father who was a preacher and a mother who was a singer/artist/scholar. His dad raised him to be humble and to never see a stranger when he was meeting you for the first time. His father instilled that hard work would always yield the highest payoffs and the most promising results while his mother instilled that a solid education was the key to unlocking the doors to success and this was the creed he lived by. At the tender age of 13, Blacc Topp lost his beloved father and it took a heavy emotional toll on him causing him to lash out from heartbreak and anger. The only way he felt that he could fill the void of losing his father was by joining his classmates and friends in one of the neighborhood gangs. Through the hiccups, trials, and tribulations he experienced in his life along with a lengthy seven years in prison for his illegal lifestyle, he never lost sight of the lessons his father taught him and ultimately resulted in molding him into the man he has become today.
KG: Lack of better judgment led you to take some required “time out”. What were your thoughts while incarcerated? What were your plans for the future?
BT: – For the first 3 years I was planning to get back in the game full steam ahead. More kilos, more connects, etc. By my 6th year, I said maybe just one kill. By my 7th year, I just wanted a job, a career, something I could grow in.
Kisha Green, Owner of DivaBooksInc.
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