“I hope that the kids catch on quicker than I did. It took me going to jail to really snap my head and make me realize what support I had in Project Visible Man, and that I needed to make a choice. I want to help people to make better decisions quicker than I did.”
From an early age, Malique became accustomed to the violence in his neighborhood on the west side of Chicago. “When you are younger you are scared of guns. As you grow up they become more common and you just get used to it.” Though he claims he never felt “unsafe”, he has made it clear how important it was for him and his peers to maneuver themselves away from violence.
As he matured, Malique began to be suspended for fighting in school, saying “sometimes it seemed the only way to settle things.” It was in seventh grade that Malique was introduced to UCAN’s Project Visible Man (PVM), UCAN’s group mentoring program for young men of color. Through open forums, candid conversations, and community service PVM seeks to instill self-respect and lead its participants towards healthy life choices. Malique says that “growing up you are never in a group with just men where you can be open. If you see people around your age talking, you actually start to listen to them. They are going through what you are going through.”
As Malique entered High School, he fell in with a bad crowd, started doing drugs, and got into more serious trouble until he was sent to jail for robbery his junior year. Though he had experienced improvement through his work in PVM, it took this major life event to make him realize the resource he could count on through UCAN. Throughout his time in jail, Malique kept in correspondence with UCAN’s Fred Long, co-founder of PVM. Fred welcomed Malique back into the group once released from prison. Fred explained: “We couldn’t just turn on him because he made a bad decision. We have ALL made bad decisions in our lives. Malique has always been a very respectful and productive young man despite his run in with the law.”
Drawing from his experience with PVM, Malique took ownership of his life. After being released from jail he got his GED and went straight to college, where he is studying Media. He has also maintained his involvement with UCAN and Project Visible Man. He now holds a leadership position helping youth suffering with the same influences he experienced. Through his knowledge and inspiring story, Malique hopes to guide his peers to make better decisions earlier, so that their futures can be as bright as his own.