Chauncey Taylor played a part in the destruction of his life. His foundation wasn’t the best, but he had a loving mother who tried to raise her son so he wouldn’t become a statistic.
It also changed his life.
Now, Taylor is giving back to the New Orleans community where she was once a problem. Finding Jesus while in prison, she left with a changed mindset. Taylor is enrolled in college, where she is studying for a degree with hopes of doing social work. She also makes speaking engagements, using her story to educate and inspire others not to travel down the same path, and if they do, that change is possible.
Your book, How adversity prompted me to changedetails his drug addiction and violent past.
Zenger talks to Chauncey Taylor about his flaws and his redemption.
Singer: How was your childhood?
Taylor: I grew up in a single parent home. The challenging thing for me was being the only guy with four girls. A poverty stricken neighborhood, low income housing. I stayed in District 8 for two years with my uncle, who took me in when my father died. My mom moved in with a guy she eventually married. I wasn’t vibing with him, so I moved on.
I got into a fight with this guy and got caught at school with a gun. I have two years of probation. The judge gave me probation because he said my mom was a good person. So I knew that the hands of God have been in my life. A lot of things I should have gotten, I didn’t. I only did a great stint in prison because I took out an incident in the heat of passion. I got caught and from that incident I decided to leave that life alone.
Currently, I claim a moral status. Having my priorities together and being in tune with the creator. I’m not perfect, but I’m better than I was. I attended Catholic school for a while. The gun incident kept me out of school for two years, but I was reinstated in a program ordered by the judge. I stayed in school for a year and a half, then dropped out in the 10th grade.
After that, I embraced the streets. I got fired up in the lifestyle of selling drugs, taking drugs periodically, smoking marijuana. I snorted cocaine, I snorted heroin a couple of times, but I didn’t like it.
I got caught my first season for being caught with crack possession. The detective stood it up for me. They didn’t catch me with anything. He searched me, found nothing, and he planted the stone on me. This was two weeks after my 18th birthday.
He told me that he knows I threw the drugs away because he couldn’t find them. But he said if he checked my backseat and didn’t find anything, he’d let me go. She found a bag. In the 90s, that’s how it was sold. He found one of those bags on the seat and charged me with paraphernalia. I said, “That’s not mine.” I got shot down anyway, because I was on probation and it was a violation. They just wanted me off the streets.
Singer: How long was your probation?
Taylor: He was sentenced to three years. He had a five-year probation and a three-year suspended sentence hanging over my head. After that, I was recruited into the boot camp program. When I was in boot camp, I stayed there for about a year and a half. The counselor made me go back to court because I was doing well.
The judge said that I had served 85% of my time and commended me for my efforts. But he couldn’t recommend that I be released. So, I served my full term. I stayed on the streets for two years and then went back to a life of crime.
Singer: Changing that lifestyle led him to write a book: “How Adversity Driven Me to Change.”
Taylor: Yes! I feel like everything happens for a reason. Adversity is what drives us to change our lives. Now that I have changed my life, I am looking for things to improve myself. I still experience adversity, but these things help me develop character. When I have interviews with guys like you, I am able to conduct myself appropriately and professionally.
Singer: You seemed to be in and out of prison a lot. In general, how long did you spend there?
Taylor: About 20 years. I did two and a half; and then 17 and a half (attempted murder). And I was like 90 days in juvenile (detention center). I have no regrets or bitterness about my past. As a reflection of my past, I use it to push myself to become a better person in the future.
Singer: What are your ultimate goals now?
Taylor: i want to give back I want to use my story to illustrate and give others the opportunity to receive things that I never received: mentorship, inspiration, encouragement, and motivation. They gave us the opposite side of the game. You are in the streets, this is what you do, you rush to survive. Now that I’ve seen both sides of the fence, the grass isn’t greener on that side. I better stay on this side. My mom raised me to be a good boy. She was a very strict and caring person.
I always had the tools that taught me to do better. After receiving so much advice over the years… I am currently in school to be a social worker to help other people grow and shape their perceptions, based on a moral perspective.
I have had experience I lost one of my best friends. I’m walking home with this guy, and he decides to do some crazy stuff, and they smoke him. That flipped my mind. He was able to run to me and when he got to me, I saw the hole in his shirt. I’m like, “The guy shot you.” He said, “I’m not going to make it.” I lived two blocks away, so I said, “Let’s try to get to my house.” He was like, “No man, just go home. I’ll stay here.” He was young. I was 15 and he was 13 and 14. He was a wild guy. He used to have it with me to keep him from getting into trouble.
He had two younger brothers. She moved out of her mom’s house because she was making out with a boy. Sometimes when women pick on men, they become insensitive to their children. He felt that his mother was neglecting him, so he went out on the street and started selling fake drugs. He did everything I could to stop him, but I couldn’t. Some things you can’t avoid. I became rebellious and was thinking of revenge.
But I feel good about what I’m chasing now. I am looking forward to getting up in front of a crowd of people and sharing my story.
Singer: Any attempt on your life?
Taylor: I almost got killed three times, twice on the same block. For me, staying sane is a miracle. I have a testimony to speak. I’m motivated. My will to live is so strong. That is why I am looking for this associate degree. I published a book; I want to open a non-profit organization. I have no intention of spoiling more. I have been at home for three years and six months and that is an achievement. I’m sober, I’m not doing drugs. I’ve been with a few guys that I was incarcerated with, and they all tell me I’ve changed. I realized that I had to separate myself from certain people to achieve my goals.
Singer: What led to your change?
Taylor: drugs! I came home with my foot on the ground running. I got a job, doing good, and listen… I made myself comfortable. I got my own apartment and became complacent with life. I started smoking and drinking a little. All my bills paid and I wanted to experience again. One thing led to another. I fell asleep behind the wheel, had a couple of accidents, and the next thing you know, I don’t have a vehicle, or a place to stay. I was placed inside a rehabilitation center. That’s what he did. I was in a hotel for a week before going to rehab.
I was in rehab for 90 days, and that’s where I really decided to recover. After having a conversation with a boy named Robert, one of the counselors. He said, “Chauncey, when you speak at these meetings, the way you speak, you can be a counselor. Have you ever thought about going back to school and being a social worker?”
I said, “Rob, I never thought of that, but I wouldn’t mind doing it.” He told me to try it. After I got out of rehab, I immediately enrolled in college and began earning my degree in psychology, with an emphasis in social work. And that’s fine right now. I am beginning to discover what true happiness is.
This story was provided to Newsweek by Zenger News.