- Associated Press - Wednesday, May 13, 2015

PHILADELPHIA (AP) - Tyrique Glasgow stood on the corner of Taney and Tasker Streets, a few squares of South Philadelphia pavement outside the May Flower Chinese restaurant - a 15-foot stretch of concrete and asphalt that was once his world. A world he had been willing to die for. A world he had been willing to kill for. A world he had gone to war for.

From that vantage point, Glasgow scanned the surrounding corners of Grays Ferry and counted off six others like the one where he stood: Six corners in a space not quite the size of a football field, ruled by crews of young men who see little for themselves but the lure of easy money and the threat of early death.

Young men who kill other young men they have known since childhood because you kill them before they can kill you. Nobody wants to die. Nobody wants to be the next one on a T-shirt.

So many young men who may never know a bigger world than the one they found on their corner.

“They don’t even know they have a chance,” said Glasgow, founder of the Young Chances Foundation, an organization that provides after-school support, sports programs, and mentoring for South Philadelphia young people.

“When all you see is gunshots and failure, then that’s what you expect for yourself,” he continued. “You want what you see. Not what you know is right.”

Glasgow, 31, left his corner 10 years ago, when he went to prison for selling drugs. Now, with a national conversation over the hopelessness and anger expressed by young black men growing up in poverty in violence-stricken neighborhoods, Glasgow’s perspective is critical.

He has broken the cycle and is helping others do the same.

Besides running his foundation, which is based out of the Vare Recreation Center, Glasgow works with the District Attorney’s Office as an outreach worker for its Focused Deterrence initiative. That effort targets South Philly gang members, but also offers exits to street life through job training and other services.

The program’s director, Lauren Baraldi, chief of the office’s Gun Violence Task Force, said what makes Glasgow so invaluable is his ability to relate to the kids they are trying to save.

“I know what you are going through,” he tells them.

He was respected in the neighborhood before he picked up a gun. He was a neighborhood basketball star, playing for the George Junior Republic boys’ school.

After graduation, he came home and parlayed that respect into a corner job.

“I took the easy way out,” he said.

He sold to family, neighbors. Soon, he ran the 1600 block of Taney Street. You don’t run the 1600 block of Taney Street if you can’t get people to follow you. He said he made three or four grand on good days.

He was shot twice, riddled with 11 bullets in all. Four remain, in his head, back, arm, and leg. His crew warred with a crew one block across Tasker - a 20-foot no-man’s-land for the two crews.

When he got out of prison - a place he felt held nothing for him - he saw new faces on the corners. He decided he could no longer be part of the problem.

“They had all followed me for something negative,” he said. “I wanted to see if they would follow me for something positive.”

His after-school sports and dance programs serve about 100 kids. Summer camp starts soon. His phone is constantly ringing with the teens he mentors through the D.A.’s Office. His aim is to open a community career center.

His answer to the hopelessness he sees is simple: consistency. That’s what breaks the cycle, he said. Consistency. Being there. Again and again.

“Showing them a different way,” he said.

Being there for kids like Nasir Livingston, who is 15 and plays on Glasgow’s youth football team.

When he saw Glasgow on Monday, Nasir hopped off a 26th Street porch where some older kids were playing cards and ran to Glasgow.

The slightly built teen, who could still pass for a grade-schooler, walked with Glasgow down 26th, the Center City skyline framing a vacant lot behind them.

The teen talked of shootings and funerals and of his older brother in jail. He said Glasgow was like an older brother to him now. A role model. That the football games gave him something to do - somewhere to be.

“Most of the kids in this neighborhood don’t have no one to look out for them,” he said.

He tries to pass the lessons Glasgow teaches him to the younger kids.

“I would never help out the younger kids if I didn’t have someone like Tyrique trying to help me out,” he said. They walked on so Tyrique could buy Nasir some dinner at the Chinese spot. The one on Glasgow’s old corner.

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Online:

https://bit.ly/1QJio9E

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Information from: The Philadelphia Inquirer, https://www.inquirer.com


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