A Young Man's Worth: Save Our Sons Forum Discusses Importance of Value

Jun 10, 2014

At age 17, Antjuan Kimbrough considered himself worthless. With two kids, he had no diploma, no father-figure and no future.

"I felt like nothing, so I acted like nothing," he said.

That was until someone else — a local attorney by the name of Reginald Estell Jr. — took the teen under his wing and showed him his true worth.

"He came into my life and he started to love me for the person that I was," he said. "Also, he introduced me to my Lord and Savior Jesus Christ...and ever since then, I've been a rocket ship."

Credit Rhema Thompson / WJCT

Eight years later, Kimbrough — once, a high school dropout — is now enrolled in Berklee College of Music.

These days the rapper and motivational speaker goes by the stage name "T’Juan" and can be found touring the country with BET’s Wrap It Up HIV/AIDS awareness campaign.

But it took an understanding of value - namely, his own - to make that change.

"Somebody took time out to make me to care for myself beyond the mistakes  I’ve made, beyond what I look like, beyond what I’ve done," he said.

Values were at the heart of the Monday night forum where Kimbrough spoke alongside  St. Paul Missionary Baptist Church pastor the Rev. John Guns, State Attorney Angela Corey and other local leaders at the Bethel Baptist Institutional Church.

The discussion was part of the week-long campaign known as Operation Save Our Sons aimed at curbing black on black crime among Jacksonville youth. Guns and other local ministers began the initiative last year with a mission of empowering young black men to make better life choices.

"No parent wants their child to go to jail," said Bethel Baptist pastor Bishop Rudolph McKissick Jr. "No parent wants their child to come to the state attorneys office. I don’t know anyone who wants that. But it’s a reality."

Perhaps, it was a reality for none more than 17-year-old William Dailey that night.

"I'm here today because at one point, I wasn't thinking," he told the sanctuary.

The Raines High School senior faced sentencing in court the very next day for strong-arm burglary, trespass and resisting arrest.

"That’s a 10 to 15 year sentence, so that’s what I’m facing right now," he said.

Dailey said he was recommended for the Save Our Sons about three months ago, where he was paired with several different mentors to guide him. Since then, he said he's given much more thought to his own future and value.

"They've given me the opportunity to see the positive," he said. "It's not over just because I messed up."

He'll find out soon what the immediate future holds in store for him, but he said he has hopes to study international business and run his own company someday.

The Operation Save Our Sons campaign continues this week with a Sheriff’s Office ride-along Friday, an all-day summit Saturday at Ribault High School Saturday and a prayer service at the Juvenile Justice Center Sunday.

You can follow Rhema Thompson on Twitter @RhemaThompson.