Wendell White

Gamal Williams | September 20th, 2021
Wendell White

Wendell White

“One thing I’ve come to understand about our (African-American) community is that many of us don’t want to be held accountable. It’s normal with us living a certain type of way. Trauma has become normal in the African-American community. The incidence of murder occurs often. There is teenage pregnancy and high dropout rates. Poverty is normal, and I don’t believe that poverty defines our neighborhoods, I think we have a poverty mindset. But I know that we can’t fix this overnight. It took me thirty years to arrive to where I am today, so I have to be patient and keep working. That’s what God wants me to do so, I will do it.” – Wendell White

Usually, I start my articles with a poignant quote or Bible verse that ties neatly into my interviewing subject. There was no need to find such a quote for Wendell White. His quote above speaks to the core of Wendell’s mission, to a fundamental change of perspective and purpose rooted in experience, and when it comes to experiences. He has had many.

Wendell was born and raised in the Englewood section of the South Side of Chicago, the “Wild Hundreds,” as Wendell explains. After leaving foster care, Wendell moved into the projects with his mother and family. Unfortunately for Wendell (and many children in inner city, African-American communities), he returned to a world full of drugs and violence. What made Wendell’s situation exponentially bleaker, he didn’t even have to leave his project apartment to find it. His family sold the drugs and contributed to the violence.

“When you’re a child and your watching your mom and family sell drugs, how does someone tell you to go to school and get an education? Everybody around me sells drugs and they are lucrative! My uncle was making $50-60k a day! I was twelve years old, and one day he gave me a bag with over $250,000 to hold for my auntie. He had all the cars, and everyone admired him. I wanted to be like my uncle. When he left, I went into the bathroom and saw all that money. I decided right then and there I was going to sell drugs. But at 12-years-old, you don’t understand all that comes with selling drugs. You don’t see that death, prison, and violence come with selling drugs. All you see is the money. You don’t see how you’re destroying people’s lives.”

Soon after that decision, Wendell joined a gang and quickly realized that gang life wasn’t the glitz and glamour he thought it was. Not only did he learn that he would start nowhere near the level his uncle was, but he was now a gang member in one of the most violent cities during its most violent time in history. According to the Chicago Police Department, from 1991 to 2004, there were 3,422 gang-related murders in Chicago. That’s an average of 244 murders per year. A ghastlier interpretation is this: there was a gang-related murder in Chicago every 36 hours, for 14 years straight. Yet, despite this reality (which is to say nothing of the other violent crimes, drug overdoses, and high incarceration rates), Wendell saw no other way to live. It was all he knew and taught, and turning to his family for guidance offered no respite. Even his own kidnapping didn’t turn him away.

“I started making money, big money. We were buying cars, flashing cash, but one day God decided that wasn’t the plan. I was kidnapped, beaten, and left for dead. That was the beginning of my transformation. The person that did it to me was near and dear to my heart; he set me up. But God spoke to me and told me to repent. I was in the hospital for eight weeks, but when I got out, I didn’t know anything else. I was eighteen and all I knew was selling drugs.”

Wendell moved to Milwaukee soon after, and though he had changed locations, his mindset hadn’t. He continued to sell drugs, yet one day, it all stopped, but not through any choice of his.
“One day, my phone just stopped ringing. I was selling drugs every day, all day, then one day, my phone just stopped ringing. I realize now that God has always been with me. HE stopped it. All my money started dwindling away. Then one day, I was coming home, stuck my key in the door, and broke down and cried. I broke, man. I cried for six months. I was depressed, but it was in that depression that I found God. It was all of these emotions and feelings that I had been feeling for years, and it all came out.”

His wife asked him to attend church with her, and though he was still depressed and drinking heavily, he decided to go. Wendell found that some church members had written books that shared their testimony. That inspired Wendell to pen his story, The Devil Thought He Had Me! He has even gone on to start his own mentorship program.

“My mentorship program started when my book came out. It was something that started when I started getting mentored. I joined my church, Unity Gospel House of Prayer, here in Milwaukee, WI. I just see the upside of having a mentor, man. We all need a mentor; we all need somebody to help us navigate through life, not really trying to control our lives, but teach us someone who can hold us accountable. If feel that I can get enough of the men and the youth, if I can just get them and talk to them. Tell them my story and the things I’ve been through. We could make such a huge impact. Not just in the city of Milwaukee or Chicago, but in the world. God gave me a testimony, and I believe God is setting up to give that testimony.”

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