My guest today is Matthew Drayton, consultant, speaker, mentor, businessman and author of Succeeding While Black.
JB: Welcome to OpEdNews, Matthew. Why did you write this book?
MD: I wrote Succeeding While Black to show young people that through preservation, hard work, and education you can overcome obstacles and become successful. I have been working with at risk youth for the past 10 years. I have seen what can happen when you show a young person you care about them and show them by example how to conduct yourself and be responsible. It brings me a lot of joy to see one of my mentees succeed.
JB: I bet. Although you're a successful businessman now, you didn't grow up with a silver spoon in your mouth. Can you share your background with our readers?
MD: I grew up an underprivileged only child in Savannah, Georgia. My mother died when I was seven, and my father was an alcoholic with very little education. There were many days after my mother died, I didn't want to go on. Although my father had his challenges and struggles; he stood by me, provided for me and made sure I stayed in school and graduated from High School. I also got a lot of support from my teachers, coaches and neighbors. Even though we had very limited resources, I never felt like I was poor.
JB: Yes, you did graduate from high school. But your growing up was not without its mishaps and wrong turns. Would you care to share a story or two?
MD: Yes, there are many stories from my troubled childhood but two that stand out are: the time I was with a group of my friends in Forsyth Park, when we started throwing rocks at passing cars. I was around 10 years old. I knew what I was doing was dangerous, and I also knew it was wrong but I was a follower. Within minutes, two police cars arrived and we all took off running.
Everyone escaped except me; I was arrested and taken home in a police car for the first time! I will never forget the embarrassment from being pulled out of that police car as everyone in my neighborhood watched. This event is as clear in my mind as if it happened yesterday. My father punished me severely for my actions, and I vowed to never ride in a police car again.
The second story involves a trip our little league baseball team took to Carowinds, an amusement park in Carolina. I was 13 years old, my little league team won the city championship; as a reward, our team and the girls colt league team were treated to a trip to Carowinds. One of the pretty girls from the colt league team asked me to steal some trinkets from the gift shop for her. I refused at first but later succumbed to her looks and peer pressure.
After several successful thefts, I was caught by two men in one of the gift shops. I took off running through Carowinds with both men chasing me throughout the amusement park. I fell into a moat and was apprehended and taken to the police station. Wet, afraid, and embarrassed, I waited for my coach to come get me. I will never forget the look of disappointment my coach had on his face, I will also never forget that the girl who asked me to steal for her was now laughing at me!
I had been arrested twice within a three year period; both times doing something I had no business doing, but more importantly, both times following someone else. These were two life experiences that, had they taken place a few years later, could have landed me in jail or with a police record, forever changing the course of my life. I have not been arrested since.
JB: You didn't apply yourself in high school. You actually were a bit aimless in those days. What options did you have for post-graduation, based on where your choices and priorities had landed you?
MD: I didn't have many options. My grades were decent enough to get me into college, however I didn't prepare for college by taking the SAT, looking into grants, researching schools etc. My father didn't make enough money to fund me going to college either. My choices were limited to taking a low-paying entry level job in Savannah or joining the military; I chose the latter.