Season 3 – Episode 3: Waking Up to Stop the Violence (with Daquan Summers)
Tajci: How does a boy who faces a felony at age 12 restore his life? In this episode Daquan Summers tells his story on what happened that changed the direction of his life that now he’s a leader of anti-violence movement and is helping others to change their lives as well.
One thing I love to do when I’m driving around doing errands and stuff, I like to listen to NPR in my car. And this one day I was listening and I heard this very moving story about a young man who is today a guest on my show. Daquan, thank you so much. I am honored to have you here.
Daquan: Thank you for allowing me to be here today. Thank you so much.
Tajci: So what I heard is here is a boy who’s had a very difficult start in life and then turned it around and now you’re speaking at the Williamson County event to all the students to lead this anti-violence movement.
Daquan: Ah, yes Ma’am.
Tajci: So tell me, what is it that you do right now?
Daquan: Right now, I’m primarily continuing to inspire and continuing to motivate people to change their lives for the better, you know? Continue speaking, continue to go to school myself. I’m gonna be attending college. First Generation student. So that’s really what I want to focus on at the moment.
Tajci: So tell me about the Bootstrap Effect.
Daquan: It’s a saying. You know, pull yourself up by your own bootstrap. So it’s a negative is saying, you know? I decided to make it into a positive saying. And the positive saying would be, you know,
improve your situation despite your circumstances.
Tajci: So improve yourself despite your circumstance. That’s a big challenge especially for a young kid.
Daquan: Yes, Ma’am.
Tajci: And I’m so excited and grateful that you’re talking about it. It’s hard that you had to go through, that any kid has to go through stuff like you did. So take us back to… I want to understand your situation.
Daquan: My situation, it was fun. My Mom always worked but she was always in my life and continue to tell me, “You need to be in school. Get A’s and B’s.” So we never made bad grades growing up. But the thing was, we had a lot of free time being around my cousins who, you know, they had no father figure. They actually raised themselves.
Tajci: Did you have a father around?
Daquan: No, Ma’am. I never had a father. I knew who he was and I knew he was in jail, so… I wanted to see my father.
I saw everybody who’s left the gym basketball game with their parents and I just wondered, “Where was my father?”
So I knew he was in jail. So majority of the things I did was to go to juvenile, go to jail so that I can see him or get on Channel 5 News and maybe he’ll see me there. Growing up, it was pretty hard.
Tajci: Tell me about the cousins. The cousins were an influence on you?
Daquan: Yeah. There was a big influence. They never mistreated me or anything but you know, if negativity is the only thing around there’s nothing else to look up to. So you know, they put a big impact on me and you know, continue to influence me about this and that.
Tajci: What kind of stuff did they teach you?
Daquan: You know, powering cars, jumping in houses, you know, stealing, all types of stuff. Smoking. It was all types of stuff at that time.
Tajci: And how old were you again?
Daquan: I’d say about 10, 9, 8, 9-ish.
Tajci: So I want to understand. I have three sons and I know a lot of my viewers would love to understand—how does a 10-year-old feel? Do you know this is not how life should be or this is all you know and it’s your life and you accept it?
Daquan: Well, as a child you think to yourself about developing. Is this the way I’m going to develop? Is this the development process that I have to go to to get to where my Mom, where my Dad is, you know? It’s all about developing. So we’re not so worried about the consequences, which we all worried about the consequences. Yeah, I was worried about my Mom giving me a whipping because of the stuff that I was doing if I got caught.
Daquan: But at the end of the day I saw those guys and that’s the way they developed. This is cool and nobody was getting hurt. Yeah, I’d like to do that. I’d like to experience that.
Tajci: So in your eyes they were successful?
Daquan: Yeah, you know. It might be fun, you know? We like to have fun.
Tajci: At what point did you know you’re in trouble?
Daquan: I knew I was getting in trouble when stuff like me getting in a bad situations. I remember one time we jumped in the wrong people’s house. I think they were like gang members or something, I don’t know who they were. But we were walking home—me and my friend and my cousin we’re already in front of us and a car pulled up next to this house that they thought was my grandmother’s house. The house that they were standing, they shot it up. And we know who they’re aiming for. I mean my cousins were like, they knew the people that was in there shaken up and kind of scared. We knew who they were.
Tajci: So what did you think? What would happen to your world at that point?
Daquan: I was saying
I don’t want to get shot. I don’t want to end up dead. I don’t want to die.
And so from that moment on I was already in the game by the time that stuff happened. So I was like, “I’m not making no money. My life is on the line. I gotta go. I gotta get out of it.” And you know, that’s what I did.
Tajci: We’re talking to Daquan Summers. And when we come back we’ll find out what happened that pulled him out of that place where his life was on the line.
Tajci: We’re talking to Daquan Summers who is a young man now leading an anti-violence movement.
Daquan: Yes, Ma’am.
Tajci: And helping kids, and not just kids—adults and teachers to really understand what’s going on.
Daquan: Yes, Ma’am.
Tajci: So now we’re at the point where you’re very young—you’re 11, 12 years old.
Daquan: Yes, around there.
Tajci: You realized as a kid that this growing, this development that you thought you were going to have, you’re going to be successful in the only way you know how to through a gang.
Daquan: Yes, Ma’am. Around that time.
Tajci: And you realized, “I don’t want to die because I can get shot.”
Daquan: Oh, any type of thing: kidnapped or anything, being beat up too bad, anything.
Tajci: I have to say as an immigrant stories like this, it’s just shocking. To me, it’s incredible that this would be happening, you know, in our neighborhoods. I’m saying our neighborhood because we all live together.
Daquan: Yeah, you are right.
Tajci: In these little towns or big towns. And that you know, my son can go to school and have this beautiful childhood and you’re sitting here saying “I thought this was life”. It’s just not acceptable to me and that’s why I invited you to come here and help us to understand what can we do better. And what happened to you at that point when you turned?
Daquan: I first had to think to myself, you know, I’m used to growing up and seeing all these people despite through different categories: gangs, shooting, whatever negativity. Everybody can put everybody in the big list. And I can ask myself, “What are they doing now?” They weren’t doing anything. Like literally nothing. My actions weren’t getting me where I need to go and I didn’t know where I wanted to go. And I knew so much, very wise, because I failed many times. And once you fail a lot, you know, like people who go to prison. They get time to think and contemplate on the situation. So, you know,
I failed so many times that I knew that I’m not going anywhere. And if I continue to do this and I’m not going anywhere.
Daquan: So I decided to change. I don’t know what clicked in my head to make me change but the things was is that the first thing I had to do was you know, a lot of people would have said, the first time somebody changes for the better, you know, they’re always, he’s trying to be fake or this and that. But you know, I had to do better for myself despite what other people were going to say about me.
Tajci: So what I hear you say is you’re now awakened. You have this wakeup call so young but you do. And then you even have people who want to pull you back.
Daquan: Yeah, a lot of people. And the biggest thing about change is that a lot of people are scared what other people are going to say about them once they change.
Tajci: Okay. So how did you get out of that? I know a lot of grownups that have a hard time breaking out of that. Did you have somebody who was your support? Did somebody reach out to you?
Daquan: My mom. A lot of mentors that I know. But the main person I had to put my faith in was God. And I didn’t really believe in God until last year. I mean I had the faith all my life. But you know, sometimes, you know, faith is believing in something that you cannot see and you know, just taking that one step forward and say, “Hey, I’m going to try this.” You know, taking that one risk, you know? I actually took that risk this year trying to put every piece of faith at every step where I say, “Game, God.” So I see where He’s gotten me. One year’s worth has gotten me athletic scholarships. One year’s worth got me my GPA went up higher. I’m getting noticed around the city and I’m making change and that’s the biggest impact that I can say.
Tajci: What do you tell other kids who might be in that hopeless place where it doesn’t look like they can get out of the gang or in their circumstances.?
Daquan: The one thing that I ask them—I can’t tell them because I haven’t succeeded yet. I’m currently still living in the same situation that I’m in. but one thing that you’ve got to ask yourself is, how could you want better for yourself if you don’t demand perfection from yourself? If you’re not waking up everyday and say, “I want change for myself”.
Tajci: What does that mean? When you wake up in the morning I want to change? What does that look like?
Daquan: Well, in my situation, for me when I woke up my number one goal was I don’t care what anybody says about me, I don’t care how people think I’m acting or anything. I want perfection for myself. I don’t want anybody’s ideas or opinions about how I should do this. I want to live my life and I want to live it right. And I want to do it for myself. I want to perfect myself. I don’t want to stay here forever. And every successful person I know has had to do that. Change. They had to really change. Stop doing the same old stuff that you see other people doing and expecting a different result.
Tajci: It’s a mind set shift.
Daquan: Yes. The mind. Thank you.
Tajci: It’s the commitment inside. Internal. You’re making the change within. The only place where you can make a change. I don’t hear you blame the system. I don’t hear you blame everybody.
Daquan: No. A lot of people make excuses and that’s the one thing that I do preach. There is no excuse on why you should not see your full potential. It’s nobody’s fault but yours. You determine, you’re the key to your own destruction. You are the key to your own success. That’s how I put it, so.
Tajci: We’re talking to Daquan Summers, an incredibly strong man who is teaching us how to make the change in the world by starting within.
If you feel stuck in your life right now and would like to create your own turning point, learn how these episodes and the stories of guests featured here can help you. In my book, “Turning Points”, I break it all down for you. And I offer some guidance in the interactive sections at the end of each chapter. Visit WakingUpRevolution.com to purchase a signed copy or download an e-book at Amazon.com.
Tajci: Daquan, so we’re talking about you were raised in the Projects. And I spent all of my life living in Croatia in government housing. And there is that kind of, you can get stuck. You were on a level where why expect more?
Tajci: Tell me about that.
Daquan: A lot of people get satisfied where they’re at. I’m just tired of the situation, you know.
I’m not only tired of the situation for me, but I’m tired of the situation for the same people. You know, a lot of people, that I see go down the wrong road and I know it’s not their road.
So it’s like if you were driving in a car and I know that you were going to crash at this stop sign and I don’t stop you, I’m in the wrong. It’s not your fault because you didn’t know. Nobody teaches us, “This is the wrong road,” and “This is the outcome.” A lot of people just preach to you and say, “Hey, you need to take this route. This is the better way.” But nobody preaches the outcome or the negative effect. And I’m not saying it’s wrong to live in the Projects all my life, no it’s not. It raised me to be the person I am today. I didn’t get used to it, you know? I’m never satisfied. But end of the day continues to motivate, each and every day say, “Hey, I’m here but I’m going to be out of this situation one day”.
Tajci: Yes, and you’re talking exactly what the whole point of this show is. It’s that the power is really with you.
Tajci: To make the change and then go out and help others do the same.
Daquan: Like to say for instance, like I told you earlier,
Harriet Tubman. She found freedom. And the thing was, she could’ve stayed there. She didn’t have to go back. She knew the consequences of going back and trying to save other people. And then what if she would have went back and nobody would’ve wanted to go? Then she would have to take the long route again and say, “Hey, I quit. I give up.” But the thing was she went back and I don’t know if she spoke to all of them or not but she got some more and she took them with them, you know, a little bit at a time. And she got some more and she took a little bit with them and the thing was it was what she was known for because she came back. She didn’t say, “Hey, I’m here, I don’t care about other people they didn’t help me,” or “They were never there for me.”
A lot of people aren’t here for me but I’m now here trying to inspire others to do better for themselves. I mean, I’m here with them. A lot of people see my story and say, “Hey man, I like your story. You’re so inspiring.” You can be inspiring too, whether you live in a mansion, whether you live in the Projects. Despite your situation you can inspire somebody to do something great.
Tajci: Okay, so I want to get to a point where you’re now decided to better your life, to expect, like you said, perfection of yourself. And then, who are some of your mentors that heard you? And how did you express that? Did you ask for help? Did you accept hepl? Did you have to change something within you to be able to receive?
Well, help and need are similar to me because a lot of people see them as a weakness, you know.
Help is not weak. Help is help, need is need, you know. And Mr. Cole, I call him Andrew Cole, he’s a great guy. He’s white and he was my 7th grade teacher and I gave him torture you know, angry and saying all types of stuff to him but he stuck with me and he continued to make me into the person I am today. Trey Vance was always how a Christian in my life, he always continued to tell me keep God first. John Howard, our basketball coach, you know. Steve Dodd, you know, those are basketball coaches. Chip Smith. I can continue to name a lot of them but I got to give the number one person in my life is my mother Lakisha Matthews.
Tajci: And it seems to me like these people in your life, they heard you. You mattered to them.
Tajci: You weren’t just a kid who, “Oh, I’m just going to write him off. He’s no good.”
Daquan: They actually said that. You know, they said that at one time of my life, “I can’t do it. It’s too hard.” But one thing, they came back to me saying “I never gave up.” And that’s one thing I had to tell myself. If they never gave up on me—and I know what I gave them—why should I give up on them? Why should I give up on myself either?
When times get hard I must persevere.
Tajci: What can we do better? What can I do better?
You should wake up every morning with the why. Why do you wake up every morning? If you don’t have a reason why you’re waking up every morning and you go and give 110% on why you’re waking up in the morning, like for instance, I wake up in the morning because I want to make it out of Projects. You know, I want better for myself. I want better for other people. And I’m gonna go and I’m gonna give a 110%.
And if I know I didn’t you know, better anybody that day, I know I gave my 110% so I don’t have no regrets about it. So you know, you don’t have a why you wake up every morning? Just go back to sleep.
Tajci: Thank you so much. This is the whole point of Waking Up in America—to wake up with your why, wake up to know that you can be inspiring, that you are called to be inspiring.
Daquan: Yes, Ma’am.
Tajci: And I will back, I will go a step further. I will say, don’t go back to sleep.
Tajci: We’re gonna be here and poke you until you wake up because you can do it. Like Daquan said so beautifully, so courageously, no matter what your circumstances are you can overcome it.
Tajci: I invited a special guest to this episode, Ms. Rosa, to ask a question and see if Daquan can maybe give us your perspective. So, Ms. Rosa?
Rosa: Well, as a parent of a young man and an aunt to a man who is going to a wrong direction I just need to know from your perspective what’s a family to do in a situation like that? I mean, what gives us hope?
Daquan: You always have to continue to always have hope. Despite the road that he’s about to embark on that he may think is the right way for him to go, you have to always have hope. Continue to speak knowledge into his brain and just give him true feedback. Not feedback that you’ve heard, not feedback that you think you know. Feedback from your heart and speak to him as if you’re concerned. Not as if you are telling him to stop and change or you’re commanding him to do something. Have faith and speak to him as if you’re concerned where, “Hey, I love you and I don’t want to see this for you. And I hope this doesn’t happen.” Don’t assume it may happen. You know, a lot of people say, “You can do this when you get here and do that.” Don’t assume it because you know, it’s not the right thing to do. Just have faith and have hope that something may change for him.
Tajci: Yes. It’s what I’m hearing, the trust. “I trust you.”
Tajci: “I trust you.” Daquan is saying he can make and everyone can make that decision inside and to just be able to hear them and say, “I trust that you can do it.”
Rosa: So does it ever get to a point where there’s too much talk? I mean, is there ever a point that you stop talking and just trust that they’ll go into the right direction?
Daquan: Sometimes, you know, talk is in one ear out the other and action is another thing. And when you speak on a point of a situation it eventually becomes ignorable to the ear of the one who’s doing it, you know.
Rosa: That’s why I’m asking.
Daquan: And the action that you can take upon that is you know, “Do you want to come here with me?” or “Help me do this,” or “Would you like to attend this, not church event, you know, but would you like to come out there and donate these to these kids?” Remind him of where he came from, you know. I don’t know what action that you can bring upon for someone to change their actions, to change their thoughts, and change their mind but nobody should be persuaded to stop doing what they are doing if it’s positive. But somebody needs to take action for themselves and let them know “It’s your responsibility and it’s your outcome and you’re choosing this route. I’m not choosing it for you.” And let them know, “If you end up here, you chose that,” so when he wants to point fingers the only person he can blame is himself because he can’t say, “You didn’t say this to me,” because only words can sum up such things that you can never tell him.
Daquan: But you know, actions—his actions, not yours, should be the one he should be looking out for.
Rosa: But then the family is still suffering in the long run.
Tajci: That’s the pain of life.
Tajci: That’s the pain of being human and pain of inability to change another person.
Tajci: But only to love, have compassion and trust and faith, and know that we are connected and that there is God or Divine who is in control ultimately. Wow, thank you so much, both of you. And thank you,
Ms. Rosa, for coming here. You are a healer. And it’s just wonderful to me to have you both here and for our viewers to say it over and over again: the change comes from within with love and compassion.
ONE WORD ANSWERS
Tajci: Here we are: one-word answers. Ready?
Tajci: Alright. What do you live for?
Tajci: Your biggest joy?
Tajci: Biggest fear?
Tajci: Most grateful for?
Tajci: Favorite food?
Tajci: Twitter or Instagram?
Tajci: Twitter. Okay. I believe in?
Tajci: All that our world needs is?
Tajci: If I could abolish anything form the earth it would be?
Tajci: Green or yellow?
Tajci: Oceans or mountains?
Tajci: Snow or beach?
Tajci: Car or truck?
Tajci: Singing or dancing?
Tajci: Dessert or appetizer?
Tajci: This year I claim?
Tajci: Good. Thank you.
Do you know what it’s like
to be told you’re gonna be unsuccessful?
I used to be told,
“You won’t gonna be successful.”
It feels like I see hard on your chest,
like being shot without a bulletproof vest.
Like being left in the cold with the cold
with no Mom to help you wipe your runny nose.
I was a devil’s child built from the negative talk,
came from hell got gained
by God and the angels when I prayed
to God and He baptized me in the Holy Heaven Water.
I’m from the city where excuses breed
and A.K.’s and Uzzi’s speak,
where little kids look up the ruthless teens
who do stupid things.
Bang, there goes another ruthless teen.
I’m from the city where the father takes the night
before he takes the time to be with his children’s lives.
But the kids want to keep their Dad name alive
and end up in the same stride
and put up in conditions where they are meant to survive.
I wished all of the kids looked up to me,
the one who changed to never see another R.I.P.
But I’m the neighborhood role model
and the kids in my hood all follow
and live by the motto,
“No excuses for failure”.
Tajci: I hope you enjoyed today’s episode and I hope you’re asking yourself, “What can I do? What belief or thought or view can I change? What mind shift can I make so that I become part of the solution and heal the world?” Visit WakingUpRevolution.com to replay this episode and share it with your friends. And if you’d like to support us and become a monthly contributor and help us to tell more stories like Daquan’s, go to Patrion.com/WakingUp. Thank you so much and I’ll see you next time.
Olga: I’m Olga Alexiva. I’m the artist and owner of O’Gallery. This episode was filmed at my studio at the Marathon Village, Nashville. Please visit us at OGalleryArt.com. Thank you.