Growing up in the roughest neighborhood in Jackson, Mississippi, Tommie Mabry didn’t know anything but crime and violence. Every school he attended, he got kicked out off. None of his family members had an education past high school and people around him began to tell him he was doomed to follow in his family’s footsteps. In the fifth grade, he was arrested for breaking into the state fairgrounds. His role models were the local drug dealers and he started getting tattoos and gold teeth.
Two years later, his whole life changed when he met City Councilman Chokwe Lumumba. Lumumba had an AAU basketball team and took Mabry on the road with him. Mabry traveled around the world for six years with the Jackson Panthers basketball team. In that time, Mabry’s perception of the world changed.
“At first, I didn’t understand there was life outside of my environment. Where I came from, you don’t get a chance to play at the AAU level,” Mabry said.
Keeping this in mind, Mabry capitalized on the opportunity. He threw all of his focus and efforts into basketball and it paid off. He became the first person in his family to further his education past high school, receiving a basketball scholarship to college. He attended Missouri State Community College and Lawson State Community College, until finally transferring to Tougaloo College in his hometown of Jackson, Mississippi. Instead of slipping back into the life he once had in Jackson, he became an exemplary citizen, which he credits to the AAU.
“Whatever you commit yourself to; it will develop or define you,” said Mabry. “AAU brought out my passion and my dream. It was only because of AAU that I began to have that passion. Committing yourself to an organization or positive reinforcement will define you.”
Surrounding himself with positive people gave him the boost that he needed. He became a role model for the underclassmen at Tougaloo College and spoke openly about his life and struggles. Because of this, his peers chose him to represent their school as “Mr. Tougaloo College” in his senior year.
He graduated from Tougaloo College with honors in May of 2011 with a Bachelor of Art in Health and Recreation. Ironically, he became a teacher in the same school district that had kicked him out so many times before as a kid. He became the youngest author in the state of Mississippi with a book titled, “A Dark Journey to a Light Future.”
When asked how his life would have turned out if he hadn’t joined the AAU, Mabry replied, “I would either be dead or locked up. I didn’t have anything going for me except for crime.”
The advice that Mabry shares with others that are going through similar struggles is quite simple.
“Commit yourself with an organization that will build and develop you in the future. Never give a situation around you an excuse to not succeed.”
Mabry truly believes that without the positive people and organizations, like the AAU, he would not be where he is today, or even alive. Every day he reflects on his past and where his choices have led him but he always remembers one phrase: “I cannot walk in my future with my foot in my past.”
CLICK HERE to visit Tommie Mabry’s website.
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