Drug Dealer, Pimp-Turned-Preacher: We Can't Wait for Racism to Go Away to Change Perception of Black Men

2 photos(Photo: Pure Publicity)As an adult, John Turnipseed became involved in several illegal activities such as armed robbery, pimping prostitutes, and selling drugs and was constantly in and out of prison. He is now a licensed minister who works at Urban Ventures, a Minnesota non-profit focused on breaking the cycle of poverty, teaching men how to become better men for their children.

Career criminal-turned-minister John Turnipseed said the image of African American men as violent troublemakers has to change so when incidents like Ferguson occur, the public will fight for them.

The Minneapolis minister told The Christian Post that, "One of the things that has to happen is that the perception of young black men has to change."

Turnipseed, a former pimp, drug dealer, and gang leader who has been imprisoned three times, acknowledges, "As a black male I have as much to do with that as anyone else."

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Still he said the African American community has power and influence within itself to impact how the next generation of black men behave and carry themselves. However the power is currently being used negatively.

"Some of the behaviors I see, some of the rap songs I see, I mean the stuff is outrageous. It talks about us killing each other and things of that nature. Our culture has to change," Turnipseed noted.

"We have to make ourselves harder to brutalize, by that being we have to make it to where if someone does something to us, the world will speak up for us. And right now the world is looking at us like uhh, and we have to change some behaviors. Our culture has to change."

The Missouri town of Ferguson broke out in protests after the summer shooting death of unarmed teen Michael Brown at the hands of white police officer Darren Wilson. Protests reignited last month when a grand jury did not indict Wilson. Mass protests have taken place in Washington, D.C., Baltimore and New York City after another unarmed black man, Eric Garner, died at the hands of NYC police officer Daniel Pantaleo. A grand jury also chose not to indict Officer Pantaleo.

While Turnipseed acknowledged that America must change how it deals with race, he said, "We can't wait for racism to go away to change the perception of black men."

He called on fathers to father their children and teach them how to stay out of trouble. "We have to teach our young men a different set of standards for behavior like we used to 50 years ago."

Turnipseed's own father was a violent alcoholic who often left the family with nothing but empty cupboards. His anger and desperation to fill the void of his father in his life led him to a 40-year path of crime, violence and repeated incarceration.

Since becoming a Christian, Turnipseed, 60, says he mentors his grandson. He shared, "From three years old, I started teaching my grandson. I want to raise him so that other people will respect and love him so I'm teaching him how to react to adults and respect adults and how to act when he's not around me. And I want his behavior to change as such so that it would be hard for somebody to shoot him."

The Minneapolis minister also said that Christians must do more than invite troubled young men to church. "A lot times we just want to get them to church and think that boom, something's going to happen. No, it takes a personal relationship with someone. They need to get to know and trust you. So we need to send as much time with them as a gang member would, as a drug dealer would. It really takes an investment of time."

Turnipseed, with the help of Cecil Murphey, has chronicled his life transformation in a book titled, Bloodline: the True Story of John Turnipseed. His life has also been turned into an award-winning short film, called "Turnipseed: a True Story," featuring "The Wire" star Larry Gilliard Jr.

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