Dec. 20, 2021

Best of 2021: Andre Norman | An Extraordinary Journey from Prison to Harvard

Best of 2021: Andre Norman | An Extraordinary Journey from Prison to Harvard

After Andre Norman was sentenced to over 100 years in prison and spent 2 years in solitary confinement, he decided to turn his life around. He spent the next 8 years working 20 hours per day on his dream to attend Harvard University. Find out how he we...

After Andre Norman was sentenced to over 100 years in prison and spent 2 years in solitary confinement, he decided to turn his life around. He spent the next 8 years working 20 hours per day on his dream to attend Harvard University. Find out how he went from prisoner to Harvard professor and became known to many as “The Ambassador Of Hope.”

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Srini: Andre. Welcome to the unmistakable creative. Thanks so much for taking the time to join

Andre Norman: It's my pleasure to be with you. Yeah,

Srini: it is my absolute pleasure to have you here. So I actually found out about your story by way of my friend Benjamin Hardy, who was a guest here on unmistakable creative, and he referenced you in his book and your story, you just sounded so insane that I was like, we have to talk to this guy, all of which we will get into, but before you that I want to start by asking you what religious or spiritual beliefs, if any, were you raised with and how did those end up impacting your

Andre Norman: life?

Andre Norman: I was actually raised in a Christian family. And I just say my mom and my sister's name, I went to a, a Christian Church. And I went for a little while they do well, they used to make us go and they stopped making us go. And then I didn't really like the people over there. Cause it's a lot of stuff happened between the leadership in the church and someone of female members of my family.

Andre Norman: And I just, as a little kid, it didn't sit right with me, even though everybody was an adult, it was still out of order. So I just grew up with this real resentment, if not hatred, push people who in the church. Wow. Because I just, they made me feel less than, and I couldn't defend, even though they wasn't only being kidnapped.

Andre Norman: I just felt that it was out of order and I couldn't stand up. Cause I was like a 10 year old or 12 year old. I wanted to say something that I just couldn't. I didn't lie for the long term for the longest time. I did not like church.

Srini: So you mean I, I, my, my parents have become more religious as I've gotten older and, I had the same attitude that you did.

Srini: For me, my biggest issue with all Indian religious traditions is that they're too, time-consuming like just go to an Indian wedding and you'll see that. But I wonder, for so many people, I've realized as I've gotten older, that your religion is often a source of meaning. It's a source of community.

Srini: It's a source of connection. Most of my friends, my parents' friends have also come from the people that they've met at temple. And so I wonder, in your life then what did you replace it with to get that same sense of connection, meaning and all those other things that other people get, from going

Andre Norman: to church?

Andre Norman: I don't know why they go. I knew I didn't. And I got my sense of community from the friends I had in the neighborhood. And your friends is your 10, 12, 13, 14 kids. It's the kids that go to school. As a kid, you played football after school. Where's the kids. You hang out with the kids you hustle with.

Andre Norman: So you, we started hanging out and say the second and third grade playing football in the dirt. And we had this little Willow football team. We played other streets other than a positive neighborhood. We'd go play football games. We were probably like eight guys, nine guys on our team. And then we just grew up playing football on a dirt and then chasing girls and then stealing cars.

Andre Norman: And then it just, we were together since third grade. So those are the guys you live in your neighborhood proximity. So whoever lived nearby and then whoever went to school with you, whoever ended up in your class, what was in proximity, you had your same name. The basics then who I was in the juvenile probation place that you got along with and whoever was in the county jail.

Andre Norman: And what was in the state jail, who you aligned with? It's all proximity enabled.

Srini: Yeah. So the kind of neighborhood that you grew up in to the best of my understanding is not like the neighborhood that's like the best one. I've promoted. I understand you grew up in poverty, but the thing is when I talk to people like you, I always want to understand what I think are by misperceptions of the kind of neighborhood that you grew up in.

Srini: Because I think that, the perception of the kind of environment you grew up in for people like me is, John Singleton movies which isn't entirely accurate. I know there's probably some accuracy to it, but what misperceptions do you think that those of us who grew up outside of environments like that have about environments, like the one you grew up in

Andre Norman: you can take the guns, stolen cars, the weed smoking stuff out.

Andre Norman: The thing that they don't show in those movies collectively is the mental trauma. Put on people. So as a young kid, I was made to feel like I didn't matter as a young kid, I was taught that I was second class as a young kid. I was taught that I wasn't important. So it's for me, I remember the mental burdens and trauma way more than just the bad neighborhood or guys getting shot or people hanging on the corner, smoking weed.

Andre Norman: That's just becomes commonplace. People hanging in front of the liquor store. People hustling. That's just commonplace. I don't even really those folks in my mind and in as pack me in as much as the way I saw myself and the way I thought the world runs. So I had three basic lessons that I operated under one it's okay to hit people.

Andre Norman: Cause my mom got hit. Anybody can get hit too. I'm going to protect myself because when kids threw rocks names at us, when we rode the bus, trying to get to school, nobody came in. And three, I can quit on anything I want because my dad walked out of the house. I can walk out of the house. I can walk out of a situation.

Andre Norman: So it didn't matter if whatever it was, that was my lens. And the thing that they don't capture in the movie is that the lens that you generate or create from what new experience, and those are things that really drive you. And for me, the lens that I had was it's okay to hit people. I could just beat people as often as I want.

Andre Norman: I can just quit whenever I want. And I became a professional quitter. I quit at sports. I quit at church. I quit at media. I quit at choir. I quit at trumpet. I quit at everything to the point where it left me no positive options, but negative options. So the movie. Is the movies. It's like a lot of folks, there's a lot of music, a lot of stuff happening, but there's a lot of trauma that they don't show.

Andre Norman: I had a friend, his mother used to drink and she used to bring men home. And when she bring men home, he come up the street to my house and we're like in the fourth grade. So first time he came by, he told me, and after that, I just knew it was like uncommon. It was unspoken that, Hey, mom brought some drunk day, both drunk and they doing whatever.

Andre Norman: And you got to listen to that, but he would just come down to my house. I was like four houses away. And that's just what we would do. And it was just like the trauma he had to suffer from living through. That was definitely way more painful than being in the inner city. So I'm a trauma guy. Trauma doesn't go away versus the neighborhood stuff.

Andre Norman: Nobody remembers people grew up in nice houses. They still get high. You know what I'm saying? They still go through stuff. So it's not the end of course. Yeah.

Srini: So speaking of environment, your dad leaving what impact did that end up having on you in the choices you've made and I, I'm not sure if you have kids, but I wonder if you do, how your dad leaving has, would impact the way that you would

Andre Norman: raise kids.

Andre Norman: The first thing, the biggest lesson was it's okay to quit. That was the biggest lesson. And I didn't even understand that at the time, but that's what I took from it. And he quit on me, then I can quit. So anytime something got hard or something got troublesome or something got too much, I just quit or something, didn't go my way.

Andre Norman: It wasn't the right day. I quit and I became a professional quitter. And like I said, that took me, that attitude took me all the way to prison because I kept quitting on all the positive options I had in my life to the point. I only had negatives. I do have a son he's 15 and Ray kid have plans. And I don't use the motivation of I'm going to be better than my dad, because when you use a negative force, a positive than a negative comes with it.

Andre Norman: So I didn't say no something. I know what he did. Good. I know what he did bad. And I just try to be the best I can for my son based on what I think he needs that move course. We do things for our kids that we wanted done for ourselves. That's any parent, but I refuse to use, I'm going to be better than my dad, because it always starts me in a 50% negative place and that's going to come out as well.

Andre Norman: So it's Hey, I got a great kid. What does he like to do? Or what he's not like to do. And I just try to be there as a dad as best as possible.

Srini: Did you ever reconcile with your father? Did you ever

Andre Norman: see him again? Oh yeah. Oh, definitely. I've seen him since. I talked to him a couple days ago.

Andre Norman: He's 80 years old now and he's sitting at home 80 years old and he's old. He's by himself and he's lonely and unfortunately I really can't help him. Because when I was in the first grade, he chose to go be with somebody else and raise their kids. And he left his four kids. On alert, whatever you want to call it.

Andre Norman: So he has relationships and bonds and great memories with that. Lady's kids, not us. And so now she's died, we're all grown. He's 80. And he's sitting home talking about, wow, where are my kids at? He's I'm like, yo, you left us a long time ago. So I call him out of respect. I check in on a lot of respect.

Andre Norman: I take calls from out of respect, but I don't wake up in the morning and say, wow, I wonder how my dad's doing. We don't have that type of relationship. It's yo, okay. He's technically my father doc check on him, but it's not like we don't have an emotional connection. Cause we know. Wow.

Srini: Yeah, to me, I wonder what leads to enough of a level of forgiveness for somebody doing something so horrible to you as a kid that you're at least willing to say, okay, you know what?

Srini: Because there are probably a lot of people who would say, what to hell with this person. They bailed out on me. I'm not going to be there for them, let them die. And you still call and check on him. So I wonder what is it? Emotional, like I know you mentioned you don't have an emotional connection with him, but at the same time, clearly you have, gotten past it enough to be the kind of person who checks in on him.

Andre Norman: It goes back to the trauma. But like I said, many years, my motivation was to prove him wrong. I'm going to prove to you that I'm lovable. I want to prove to you that I'm smart. I'm going to prove you that I have value. And that's what drove me to prove to my dad. But I was doing it on the wrong spaces.

Andre Norman: Some people do it on the football field. Some people do it in the science room. I did it in the street. So I was trying to prove to him that I could be. Lovable one wanting all the rest of that stuff. But I don't, it's basic courtesy, man. I, what I do for a living is I help people. So it's really hard for me to go around the world and help people and not communicate minimally with my own dad.

Andre Norman: You know what I'm saying? So again, can we rebuild 53 years of absenteeism? I don't think so, but we can be called you. Like he called me, we had a call the other day and he started telling me something about, I said, listen, dad, let's do this. I'm a grown man. You're a grown man. Let's start there.

Andre Norman: He keeps trying to fix me when I was eight. I said, let that go. I said, you're grown, I'm grown. Let's stop there. Let's not go back to when I was 10. And you explained to me why you left or when I was 12, you're trying to explain to me why he didn't show up. That's what on the bridge. I'm 53. You're 80. Let's start from here.

Andre Norman: And we can be friends from here. We can't be father, son catch balls in the park. Them days are over because he kept trying to relive my childhood. I dude, I got a kid that's 15, we're past that. So he's trying to make up for stuff that he can't make up for. And it's unfortunate that he has to be home alone, but that's like you said, that's the bed that he made.

Srini: Yeah. So you mentioned the trumpet. I had to ask about the trumpet because I was a tuba player and I knew the trumpet story to some degree, but let me ask you how you go from playing football in the park with your friends, to the trumpet, to starting to get into trouble. What was the trajectory of that?

Srini: And also what ended up happening to your friends, into your siblings over the course of your life,

Andre Norman: playing football on the street, playing in the park in elementary school, everybody's just. We get to middle school. That's when I found out I was poor, there was a lot of kids who had stuff that in hand, they told me about it in middle school, you have to sign up for free lunch.

Andre Norman: You can't just be given it. They do an elementary school. So it was all these indicators that Omni was poor and it was uncool. And it wasn't what the times and kids tell you about yourself. Sixth grade kids are mean, so middle school kids of most, I remember I was catching hell and there was another way to put it.

Andre Norman: And then a friend of mine suggested we go to the park. We can sell weed after school, but we wouldn't, we didn't really sell weed. We would have runners for the weed dealers. So we'd run back and forth to the stash and bring the guys 5, 6, 7 bags of weed at a time make 40, 50 bucks, not a million dollars, but it was enough that I could go buy some cool pants.

Andre Norman: It was enough that I can buy a cool jacket. There was enough that before school, we stopped at the store. I can buy popcorn and sodas and narrators and candy, and that stuff allowed me to fit. So I got on that track of going to the park to make a couple extra dollars because that was available to me. And it was just an option that was there for me, that I could go to the park and we are running for drug dealers and they'll pay me 40, 50 bucks to do it.

Andre Norman: And my mom didn't have 40 50 bucks to give me every day. And you're saying, so it was just my way of taking care of me. She's trying to take care of her household with six kids. So I'm like, I can't, I gotta make my own way. And I started, and then sixth grade, the teacher gave me a trumpet cause everybody back in the days was in the band.

Andre Norman: So she put me in a band, gave me the trumpet and I just got good at it. I play, I had it, I just played it every day. It was before video games. It was before a lot of stuff before internet. So you played your trumpet. I just got really good at it when I got to high school. My friends who weren't in band told me Ben was stupid and uncool.

Andre Norman: When they told me either get rid of the trumpet or get rid of them. She got a 14 year old kid who was on his own. He only has this group of friends now, like they're going to get rid of me if I don't get rid of the trumpet. So I didn't have enough courage to say that this is my out. I didn't even know it was my out.

Andre Norman: It was just something that I did. So nobody really explained to me that this was my ticket out of poverty. This was my ticket out of trauma. This was my ticket to like another space in the world. I just saw it as something that I did. Nobody ever really sat down with me and explained to me, miles Davis and dizzy Gillespie.

Andre Norman: And none of that, they just, I just played. It's like playing basketball. I'll never hearing of Michael Jordan or LeBron James never heard of the NBA. You just play. And then one day somebody says that as stupid. I didn't know what it was. MBA. I didn't know what it was. Professional league. I didn't know.

Andre Norman: There was a whole life that wouldn't be on ninth grade band. So when they said give it up, I didn't have. The long-term vision to see where it could take me. So I'm like, this is what I visit some I've been doing. I never not, I didn't take it serious. I didn't know enough about it to know what I was walking away from.

Srini: I've had professional athletes here who are African-American, I've had artists, authors many who grew up in, in circumstances, very similar to yours. And I wonder, what do you think it is that separates the people who find their way out of poverty or see that path? The one that you had your out and recognize the out for what it is and leverage it versus the ones who don't, who end up victims of their environment.

Andre Norman: It's not okay. I would say mentors. So if you're playing sports, you automatically have a coach. So you have an adult male in your life. As there is holding you accountable is helping you grow and be better. It has standards set for you. Even as a band member. I had a band coach, even though he didn't spend the type of Taiwan, media to football coach but had my band coach walk me through more of that, but I was like the only out of control kid in the band, whereas you don't have a lot of thug kids in the band.

Andre Norman: Yeah. Equipped to deal with me. I wasn't supposed to be a great trumpet player. I was supposed to be like a great something else. And had I played football that coach deals with adolescent boys who have high energy. And I had a nerdy band teacher who was super cool love Mr. Ellis. But he wasn't equipped to help me with my problems.

Andre Norman: So the people you see who ended up ending up with mentors, coaches, people in their lives, who would hold them accountable for saying that makes a major difference. Let's take Mohammad Ali. He was just a poor black kid in Louisville. He ended up in a police station over a stolen bike and a police officer took interest in them and taught them.

Andre Norman: Mike Tyson who was in jail for Robyn and mugging people. And one of the coaches took him to the gym instead of taking them to solitary. And one of the coaches started mentoring. He went and got custom model. Custom model was a difference in Mike Tyson's life. Two things, one, the person who introduced them to my cost, who saw enough to give him a chance then, because being willing to step up and help him guide his life.

Andre Norman: And I don't know the name of the cop who taught Bahama Lee had a box, but you need that person. Who's going to walk you through because at 10, 12, 13, 14, you know what you know, which is nothing and compared to the world. So you got a guy who was 13 years old trying to navigate the world with limited experience of no exposure.

Andre Norman: So you need that adult figure who can guide you through. It's not going to get you that tell people falling in a hole is not a bad thing. Somebody has to teach you how to climb out. So learning how to climb out of the hole is more important than skipping over the hole because you're going to fall in the hole sooner or later.

Andre Norman: So that mentorship is immense and it makes a huge difference. And most of the people that you've come across have probably had that person that they can.

Srini: You brought up police and I knew there was no way I wanted to get out of this conversation without talking to you about race relations, one,

Srini: like I said, this is why I wanted to have, I wanted to get the perspective from you. Cause we get one perspective usually, and we don't hear it from the side of people like you. Like I had Chris Wilson who told me about what it was like, and he said, people, he said people shot and the police wouldn't even show up half the time.

Srini: So one like one, what did your parents teach you about what it meant to be black in America while you were growing up? And what did you internalize that to mean? And to when you see what has happened, particularly over the last year, as somebody who has been through our entire criminal justice system, in a way that most people don't, what do you make of it?

Andre Norman: I'll start with my first introduction to the police was a non-indigenous. I watched my mother be beaten for years and nobody came to help her. So there was no saving grace or no agency out there protecting my mother didn't exist. And then you fast forward to when I'm now first grade, eight years old, white kids are throwing rocks at us and calling us niggers.

Andre Norman: There's no agency stepping up to protect us. So my first lessons about the police was there not did it protect me or my mother? That's the first lesson. Nobody told it to me. I just witnessed it. Nobody's protecting my mom. So I don't believe in an agency that's here to protect us because I don't see it.

Andre Norman: Then when they threw rocks and stuff at us, nobody showed up to help us. So it is no agency coming to help me. So when I found out what the police were, then you go look at the tapes. The police were out there, corners niggas too. So it's okay, they're not here to help us. Then when I became like fifth grade, sixth grade, I remember distinctly, I live in all black neighborhood.

Andre Norman: Of course, at the bottom of my street, there was it was like a drug store. This is back in the days when they had the soda fountains and white people ran the drug store and the mob or whatever group they were from. Actually you go down, there would be a beautiful white people. They didn't sit around all day.

Andre Norman: They ran the numbers, they ran the drugs, they govern the neighborhood. And that neighborhood was governed by an outpost of whatever these white folks were from with the drugs and numbers and arrest. And we will everything ran through them. One of my first jobs as a kid was like riding on the on a globe truck on a newspaper truck, the guy would pay us like 20 cents a stop or something.

Andre Norman: We run them newspapers off, but it was all centered around this one little enclave of white folks who govern all audit criminal activity. And I remember later on when the black guys finally ran them out of town, but they were able to stay because they had police. Police protected them. If you did anything to them, the police would come back and retaliate and you couldn't retell.

Andre Norman: You couldn't beat the police. When the police protection wasn't there because the police force diversified, the lights were coming on or whatever. Then the blacks were able to run them out. And now the blacks have control and all the criminal activity. So I don't see it as race relations. We live in a white country and it's not good, bad or indifferent.

Andre Norman: It's not like I'm not trying to move to another country. I've been to Africa. I've been to Columbia. I've been a lot of places. I'm not trying to live any place else, but we just generally live in a white country. Like today, I'm in Arizona. That's not good, better and different. It's just a fact. I look at this yesterday.

Andre Norman: We had a gentleman going to a store in Boulder, Colorado and killed 10 people.

Srini: I lived there in Boulder. So I knew,

Andre Norman: made no sense. It's horrible traumatizing. To the point where the white house is flying flags that have. In solidary with the 10 families in the community that I look at the city of Chicago, they had 800 murders last year.

Andre Norman: What is a differential while there's no flag at half-mast? Why is CNN not out there? Why is Fox news not covering it? Why is the president not saying this is a tragedy? We've had 800 people murdered in a city. You haven't 10, 20, 30, 40 people killed in a weekend. And it's acceptable is culturally acceptable.

Andre Norman: That 800 black people can be murdered in Chicago. It's completely acceptable that 30, 40 people can be shot in a weekend in Chicago. And nobody covers it. Nobody. I'm not saying nobody cares, but nobody's really trying to change the narrative. Now, 10 white people die and I don't want to see anybody die. We fly the white house staff at half minute.

Andre Norman: Black lives matter, went to Washington, DC. It was police going every single corner. And when they had the insurrection or whatever you wanna call on January six, all I could think when I was watching those peoples torn the Capitol, I said, if that was black people it'd be a massacre right now. They had a pulled out every gun.

Andre Norman: They'd a blow us halfway across the mall and say, what did you think we were supposed to do? If we had rushed to build in 3000 black people, it would've been we're disrupting Congress were unseating the country. Would it have been everything to justify killing this many people came to that door as humanly possible.

Andre Norman: And then I've been in criminal justice for awhile. So aside from everything else, I watched, whatever amount of people crashed through this building, beat down the police, going to the building, run Congress and a vice president, United States out of the building. And then they walked in and they all walked out where I come from.

Andre Norman: They surround the building. They arrest everybody inside. Why are they looking for. You had them in the building. I've watched every police show, but in every police show, you can imagine you surround the building. You arrest everybody inside. You don't have to go look for nobody. A third or half. The people just will let's let go.

Andre Norman: Oh, it's basic trespassing. No, if you're in a building, if somebody gets murdered, you would, they call it joint venture. On South Carolina hand on one hand the wall, they have all these wonderful terms of you're with somebody. There are people on death row right now. Cause three guys pull up to the store.

Andre Norman: Two guys went and killed the clerk. Man, I didn't even know he's on a death penalty too, because he was with them. So all these people rush to counter to the capital, winning until cops beat up, everybody walked in, walked out. Why did they surround the building? And just rest everybody who crossed the threshold minimally, it would have been black people would have been a lot more bodies and everybody went on, went out in handcuffs.

Andre Norman: I know police procedure. They did not. Because they look at white folks differently. Look at black folks. I'm not upset about it. I look at black folks look different than I look at Spanish folks, Asian folks. I'm not upset about it. They're just facts. We live in two Americans, there's rules for white people and there's rules for black people.

Andre Norman: And I accept that. I'm not upset. I'm not complaining. I'm not lodging a lawsuit. I just accept. And I have acceptance. I was a child. There are two sets of rules is what you can do around white people is what you can't do around white people, black people. Can't do. It's just a fact.

Andre Norman: There's not a lot to said about it.

Srini: Yeah, no, it's, it's interesting you bring that up. Cause Isabel Wilkerson wrote this amazing book called cast and I, I brought this up on the show before, but I remember you going through that, looking at how policy was created, the it's been what probably 50 plus years since the civil rights movement and we're still having this conversation.

Srini: But she said, if you look at actual policy and how it was crafted, it was literally written to basically exclude African-Americans like, and you look at that, you're like, wow, that literally is a definition of systemic racism.

Andre Norman: My thing is if we go back to the movements in the black community, you can say, Malcolm X, you didn't say maca average.

Andre Norman: You can say Martin Luther king, you can do a bunch more. If you try to lead the black community into a better space, you got. There is shows on Netflix now called COINTELPRO. They had actual agencies that were set up through the federal government and FBI to monitor and watch black people to make sure that they don't rise up.

Andre Norman: So Fred Hampton was known as the black Messiah. He's leading black people. He's feeding kids that they have guns short. They're not run up on every militia. It has guns because some, they look like us. They give him the benefit of the doubt. And that's, I, again, I don't want to listen to say, oh, he's up.

Andre Norman: I'm not upset. I understand where I live. I understand who I live with now. I understand the rules. So as long as we can be honest about the rules, they will be from the other day about women and men in the NWC. The NCAA tournament, the women's staff is a horrible, the men's stuff is top of the line.

Andre Norman: The truth is what nobody was say. The men generate millions of dollars and the women don't,

Srini: that's what.

Andre Norman: Why Y equal the men generate millions of dollars and the women don't. So that's why they treat the men better. I want the system, I've got a friend, who's a coach at South Carolina basketball team. I know her sister.

Andre Norman: I root for them. I watched the game last night, but I'm not confused as to why these two systems, the men generate a lot more money than the women. So they put their emphasis. Is it fair? Is it accurate? Is it right thing to do? No, but is it true? Yes. I feel in truth. I'm saying that it'd be nice if everybody was treated equally, isn't that I don't live in that world.

Andre Norman: I live in the world that men's basketball generates more money than women's basketball. So the people who govern pay more attention to where the money's coming from now, if they took, so we're going to take 20% of this money and make the women's girls game better. But it's still not going to generate the money, perhaps.

Andre Norman: I don't know. It's unequal treatment period. And I can tell you why in anybody who watches basketball can tell you why, but now it's like, how could this be? Why are they getting such bad treatment? And they're not even getting real. They let him give him the girls corporate tests where they're supposed to, they don't generate money.

Andre Norman: NCAA is about generating money. So when the sports, they had to suit him and get the stuff that they're getting, because they didn't want to give it to them. Everything that wouldn't have gotten there to Sue for because they don't generate money. Yeah.

Srini: I appreciate your candor. So let me ask you this.

Srini: So how do you go from, dropping out of the band to selling weed to a hundred year prison sentence and what does the system look like? Because one thing that I distinctly remember, I had a lawyer named Sean Eskenazi a, who now is a, owner of a chocolate company, but he was a criminal justice, criminal defense attorney.

Srini: And he was telling me, he said, people take plea bargains all day long for crimes. They didn't commit. He said the whole system would fall apart if people actually went to trial. And often it's, he said often it's because they can't even afford their defense. But for you, like what does it, what does that process from?

Srini: The first sort of running with the law to, all the way w a hundred year sentence look like?

Andre Norman: I was, so when we, before I joined the band, so that's the thing as a young black kid who gets it right. Who has an absentee father overwhelmed. And I walked into a court system, which immediately hands me a lawyer.

Andre Norman: My mother believes in the Lord because he's a professional and she believes that I didn't do anything wrong just because I'm her child. And then we get into the system. She knows nothing about legalities and criminality is a whole world unto itself. So when you walk into this massive system, now you have black people going into the courthouse who used to be, to play space, to hang black feet.

Andre Norman: You, in our opinion, excuse me. In my opinion, the courthouse was where people met up. So we can hang the black guy together because they're used to catch them out and hanging out in the field. I'm mad. Cause I didn't get a chance to watch it as a name or a white guy. So it seemed let's wait to the black, I guess the police station and get to the courthouse.

Andre Norman: They have tons of scenarios, rate drag people from the courthouse and police stations. It was the mob rule. So when you have a black mom walking into a building full of all white people, that's what it was in the seventies and eighties who are now taking jurisdiction over your child. You just you're overwhelmed.

Andre Norman: You're not going to speak up. They're not going to speak against the system. They're not going to tell why for, I was taught as to why you don't talk back to white people. You don't get, you don't raise your voice to white people. It's just not permissible. My father now, my great-grandfather not my great-great-grandfather my father and my uncles and aunts were all born at home in the house because blacks were allowed to be born in hospitals when he was born.

Andre Norman: That's fact. So my father is not going to go from being born at home, being treated. Second, third, fourth class citizen, since a baby. Now he's going to walk into the courthouse. Exercise, what rights. This is a seat of power in his mind. That's the one building he does. So the whole stigma of black parents from my era, walking into a courthouse is a best narrow from the stop.

Andre Norman: And then they don't understand any of the processes or protocols or what's really happening. And they're trusting us, somebody who doesn't have our best interests at heart, his job, or her job is defend, or just get me through the process. So now when the judge and the da says, you need to take this, you take it, it starts with the arrest.

Andre Norman: The restaurant officer can give you a pass and say no to something. You had one joint you had what do I wanna let you go? He arrests you. Then he writes up the charge. Then when the da comes in, they either up to charge. So they scream. They take your task for something basic. Did they make it? You got caught with weed in your pocket.

Andre Norman: You get to the courthouse, they make it possession with intent to distribute, which adds another five years of the sentence. Why is it this intent to distribute? Because now the da has leveraged to make you bleed. He didn't care that you weren't intending to sell it. He wants you to plead guilty. So he has to create leverage.

Andre Norman: And so what happens is, you did it and you don't want to go against the system. You're trained not to fight the system. So why people say you're guilty. That's it? That's the system I grew up in. Now that system is somewhat changing, but at the same time, you take the kids out of New York city.

Andre Norman: With that society, these five black kids raped this lady in the park and we're going to make it show, and we're going to send them to jail. If anybody who listened to this podcast thinks that I'm crazy. They go to Google, put an exonerated black man. And then 2, 3, 400 stores will pop up. That is 36 years.

Andre Norman: God did 25 years. God did 18 years. All in lo and behold DNA said he didn't do it on behold. He didn't do it. Oh, the fingers printed match. You go to Google right now and put an exonerated. And it just pop up, like you put in last night scores and it's okay, cool. It's one case the guy was found guilty, centered jail.

Andre Norman: He appealed. Cause he asked for DNA. They wouldn't give it to them. DNA became available. So he won his rights to get the DNA. It took him the course of given it took him 12 years to get the DNA from the judge and the D and the district attorney, the judge retired, the deal was about to retire and they finally gave him the stuff.

Andre Norman: The longer it took to prove he was innocent 48 hours. But for 12 years they said black lives don't matter in the larger scheme of things. So if you get the wrong black guy, no big deal. It's no big deal. Like when the guy shot 10 people in a supermarket and they shot him in the leg, I can give you countless people.

Andre Norman: Who've been shot in the head for maybe having a cell phone. It looked like. I don't want them. I'm not happy. He's not dead or whatever. Not happy. He didn't get killed, but I know too many white people who were dead because we thought he had a gun. No, we thought he looked dangerous or he thought he was going to do something.

Andre Norman: So you shoot for the head. You're going, gonna mail with an automatic rifle would already killed 10 people, including the cop. You shoot him in the leg. I'm happy. He's alive. I want that for us. Shoot us in the leg.

Srini: So what actually led to you ending up with a hundred year sentence? What are the misperceptions that you think we have just from either seeing media?

Srini: I, like I said, I've definitely talked to probably half a dozen people. Who've actually served time and I'm always surprised by how much I learned from them. Not only about my misperceptions, but, and I've also had an opportunity to visit San Quintin because we had one of our former podcast guests to start at a tech incubator inside of San Quintin.

Srini: I remember these guys showed me all the apps they had built and all this stuff. I was like, wow. Even I can't do any of this stuff. That's mind blowing to me. One actually better yet. Tell me about the first night in prison. Like how you got there and the first night

Andre Norman: let's start there. The way I got there was I started robbing people.

Andre Norman: I used to sell drugs in the park and I started robbing people who sold drugs in the pocket. It was just so much easier to Rob the drug dealers and didn't have to send in a park. I stayed in the park all day. I make money. I come down in 10 minutes, take everybody's money and be gone. And then I have to do any work.

Andre Norman: It was just so much easier taking money from drug dealers and actually selling. So that's why I started doing, I started taking the money from drug dealers. It was just so much easier. It was more liquid and he worked a lot less. So that's why I started doing it. And as I got older, I kept finding new ways to Rob drug dealers.

Andre Norman: I actually went to jail for I'm home evasion and the house I Rob was a drug house. I got charged with armed robbery of a motor vehicle. I stole the car to go do drug house Roberts. So I robbed drug dealers and I stole, stopped cars to go Rob drug dealers, and they had guns to Rob drug dealers. So when I got to court, they started giving me sentences seven to 10 to nine and tens to 15 and twenties and a five to when I got to prison.

Andre Norman: I got into the culture of staying alive and dominating and I got two attempted murder convictions while I was in prison. It had an additional 10 years added to my sentence. But my first night in prison, but the Salem jail back when I used to hang the witches, literally they took me in blue tear, cell 10.

Andre Norman: They put me in a room with this 250 pound white guy. And I was scared to death. I was terrified. I'd never been in a jail before in my life. And I was scared to death. And the guy, me and a guy started talking and we started playing cards and I beat him like out of a six pack of soda. And I was feeling cool was I was a card player as a kid.

Andre Norman: And then he said, I'm not paying you. I sat on my bunk. I was like, wow, this guy is jumping me, but I don't know anybody. I don't know anything. I'm just going to shut up. That's three or four hours of sitting on my boat. I took the one soda can, he gave me, I ripped it out, bent into a ripped in half. I jumped off the boat, kicked him in the head.

Andre Norman: I put the soda cans to his neck. I said, if you don't pay me, I will kill you. I said, you got to be totally confused. I said, I will kill you. You will pay me. Or I will kill you. That is because the whole thought of being admin is about prison. Culture, nothing crazy. I just got, I just couldn't take being robbed.

Andre Norman: I robbed people and then that happened and it gave me status and it was like, it was some gangsters in the prison. One day, some guy threw some water off the tear and he got on the guy downstairs. The guy yelled up to his friend, Hey, fucking the scoop threw water on me. And the guy ran up on me and he grabbed me.

Andre Norman: I'm like, I literally didn't do it. And he starts cussing me out. He's yelling at me and I'm just standing there taking it. Want to have this mindset. You don't fight with white people too. I'm in prison. I know what the hell is going on in three. This guy's wrong. So I don't know why he's yelling at me. And I'm just standing there while he's cussing me out.

Andre Norman: Had he just walked away and said, you better not do it again. And just walked away. I'd have been mocked for all kinds of problems. I'd have been weak. I was a coward. I was a chump. I got disrespected. I'm soft. I probably got robbed beat up 20 minutes later. Then he did something. He shouldn't have. He put his hands on me.

Andre Norman: He grabbed my shoulder or something when he grabbed my shirt and then he started putting his finger in my face. Soon as he grabbed my shirt, my mind snapped out of it. Like I know what to do now. I don't want to do the old white guy yelling at me. But when you put your hands on me, I know what to do. I grabbed his shirt and he started pulling, I punched him like 35 times in the same.

Andre Norman: I dislocated his eye. He's on one knee. I'm trying to rip his head off. Now. I'm like, okay, I'm celebrated because for the first 6, 3, 4 minutes of it, I just stood there like a chunk. Then when he grabbed my shirt, I snapped in the auto response. So when he puts the hands on you, you beat that ass. So I started beating them now, I'm sorry.

Andre Norman: Now I didn't. I got the first guy and I got the second guy that started seeing, Hey, violence works in here. And I decided to put together a team. We started extorting people in the prison. You had to pay to live on us. And we started beating people up and making them pay to live on it, tears. And then the CEO's supported it.

Andre Norman: The CEO's Hey, we don't like that guy. So we beat the guy up for the CEO and they just, we had the CEO side of the thing, whatever the toughest gang is, they've worked with them instead of working against them. So since we ended up with the toughest gang, now we had all kinds of latitude from the CEO's and the staff to do stuff.

Andre Norman: There's because we actually ran the jail on the inside, but my terrified, wow.

Srini: So how long did this pattern of violence continue and, too, when you are staring at, a hundred year sentence, it's pretty clear that, Hey, I'm probably going to die in this place. And I'm sure that you've probably met lifers inside of president.

Srini: I remember, Julia who dropped 30 banks, he's had the safest people in a prison are actually lifers. You would never think that, but which may or may not be true based on your experience, but how do you feel, like how do you find the sense of meaning and feel that there's any purpose to living?

Srini: I think that, to me, the most absolutely terrifying thing in the world is to potentially end up in prison just from the stories I've heard. I like, yeah, I think I would kill myself before I let that

Andre Norman: happen. But the thing is where you're coming from. You're coming through a stable life with a stable place, no life and kids and a job and an income and you pay taxes and you take trips.

Andre Norman: I'm coming from abject poverty. I'm in the streets every day. I'm going back and forth to the police station. I'm going back and forth to juvie. By the time I got to prison, I've been geared and raised for this. So it's if I just took you and put you on the NFL football field, it's going to hurt the first time somebody runs into you.

Andre Norman: If you've been playing since pop Warner football, it's nothing you built for this. So you're not built for prison. I was built for prison. I went through all the trauma in the house, then all the trauma, the neighborhood and all the common public school and alternative school in juvie. Then the county, by the time I got to the state prison, it was just like a natural transition.

Andre Norman: And I was in the county jail and I actually had a robbery. I robbed, I went to old town. I robbed somebody for that car. And I went out and did a robbery in the car. Then me and my girlfriend was riding around in the car. We got arrested. And so when they caught me in county, a, in the car, they charged with stealing the car and I paid bill.

Andre Norman: I went home, they send the information to where the car came from, say, Hey, we found your car and we're going to send it back. They said that car wasn't stolen. It was robbed. It was taken in the robbery. So they send my picture in the county where I took the car from. They charged with armed robbery. I'm in court, I'm in jail.

Andre Norman: I have two pieces of paper. One says lost money. I stole a car. The other one says, armed robbery. I stole a car. I went to my lawyer. Now I'm listening. I'm a high school dropout. I went to my lawyer. I said, listen, I'm looking at these two pieces of paper that had exact same. The only difference is one says, robbery.

Andre Norman: One says lost me. Is this double jeopardy? Everybody knows w and he looked at me, looked at the papers and told me no. Then he ended up taking me to trial and losing my trial and get me 10 years. But I happened to plead guilty to a lesser case. Cause my girlfriend was attached to, I don't want her to go.

Andre Norman: I go up on appeal. The appellate court said, unequivocally, Commonwealth vs Norman. This is double jeopardy. We versed my case. I could have went home. I should have never went to prison. My lawyer had done his job. I didn't never went to prison. He could look at these and say, yeah, we're going to take down the county.

Andre Norman: You're going to plead guilty. You got probation is can we go to trial? He should have filed a motion to dismiss the second charge. And he's already been tried and convicted for this Yana, double jeopardy at it. Stood out, have never stepped foot in prison. My lawyer looked right at basic paperwork that a high school dropout could figure out and lied to me and sold me down the river.

Andre Norman: And since I've been home, he reached out to me and he apologized and he said, Hey, let's go to lunch, man. I'm sorry I did you wrong. I just want to make up. I'm a Christian now. And I'm like, I accept your policy, but no, we don't need to go to. So had this white man for the record said, I'm going to do my job and it, and he, I said, I went to prison.

Andre Norman: I did the crimes. I would, I did all the crimes. It wasn't mistaken identity, but had he looked at that and just said, okay, look, we're going to plead guilty to the lesser charge, take your probation and dismiss the state charge. He didn't do it. It wasn't his concern. His concern was sending me to prison and he was my lawyer.

Andre Norman: So when my lawyer's trying to send me to prison, what does a district attorney necessarily for again, I did the crimes, so I deserved the punishment, but by law and by had I been a rich kid and I had parents with real lawyers, they looked at that and it did it the way it should have been done, pleading guilty in a lower court, get the law, high courts dismissed.

Andre Norman: And I went home and nobody would've blinked, but my lawyer is like, he doesn't matter. Send them to. My lawyer.

Srini: So I know how this story ends. The trajectory is remarkable. I remember when I literally, I read the words prison to Harvard, I was like, I have to find this guy. Like the minute I had that, I was like, okay, we have to have this guy on the show as a podcast guest.

Srini: So one, how long was it before something changed and what prompted the change that made you think? Yeah. You know what, I'm not going to stay here, especially with something like a hundred year sentence, Harvard, even for a kid in high school, who's getting, perfect scores and sat.

Srini: Harvard is a long shot and you decide from, a hundred year prison sentence that you're going to go to Harvard.

Andre Norman: I was in prison when I got to prison prisoners governed by dangerous and mean people for lack of better term. And I wanted to be one of the bosses I wanted to be loved boss.

Andre Norman: So my goal was to be the number one guy in the system. So I have been kicked out of nine different states, Pennsylvania, Oklahoma, Tennessee, Indiana Alabama Texas, I've been shipped around the country. Massachusetts nine months kicked me out Pennsylvania. Two months kicked me. I went all over the country is fighting and fighting and getting in trouble.

Andre Norman: And I ended up in solitary confinement with two attempted murder cases, 10 years added my sentence. And I thought I was winning because I had accepted, this is my space in life and this is what I'm going to be. And then I had an epiphany moment that I was the king of nowhere. And I realized that I was the king of nowhere.

Andre Norman: Okay. And I said to myself, that's why I say to people, Andre, if you're really the king, you're really the boss do for yourself. The one thing you really want done go home. And I couldn't let myself out, as he said, and you're not the boss. You're not really the boss shouldn't make believable. You've created this narrative in your mind that isn't real and you're trying to live it out and it's not real.

Andre Norman: And I can show you, it's not real. And I showed it. I was demonstrated you're not the boss. You're really not the boss. So I said, okay, I can't be the boss. I shouldn't want to be here. I said, if I want the first, I said, I want to be free six first time in six years, I said the words I want to be free. My first six years of being in prison, I never once thought about going home.

Andre Norman: I was completely content staying in prison and I said, I want to be free. So I looked around at the white guys, the black guys, the Spanish guys, the church guys, the basketball players, the chess players, the guys who did this, the guys who didn't, nobody went home and stay free. Everybody came back. That's it free.

Andre Norman: Doesn't work as a trick. I don't want to go for the trick because it's not working. I well, who doesn't come to jail? I said successful people. I said, okay what are they come from college? So I started go home, go to college, be successful. I had to pick a school. I picked Harvard university. I'm from bark.

Andre Norman: I used to ride my skateboard and Harvard square. It's the only school I know the name of

Andre Norman: it's literally the only school I knew the name of. So I picked that school and everybody thought I was crazy. Everybody thought I was like, lost my mind, but I said, no, this is it. I want to go home, go to college, be successful. I'm going to go to office. And then everybody thought I was crazy, but I believed and I wrote down my plan on how to go from the basement of a prison to Harvard university.

Andre Norman: I started working every single day, 20 hours a day on that plant. And even though nobody else believed the, sorry, it took me eight years, teaching myself how to read, teach myself the law, teaching myself anger management, going to self-help groups on the college behind walls, going to different programs, going everything that wasn't nailed down, stopped hustling and fighting in jail.

Andre Norman: Got rid of the knives. I started doing everything the right way for eight years, not eight weeks, eight years, 20 hours a day. I worked on this and I finally got out of it. And I got out of prison. I started day one. I went to prison, Paul off his youth center. I started going to Euston. Isn't helping kids, helping them understand how they can turn their lives around and do better.

Andre Norman: And I told him, I said, you're going to jail because you've been traumatized. Not because you're black, not because you smoke weed, you've been let down and disappointed. And you act out because your feelings are hurt at eight and nine is cute at 13 and 14 is criminal. Let me show you how to process your emotions and be a better person.

Andre Norman: First, those black boys and those black girls. And I went, started helping white kids cut themselves. They have drugs in their families. They drink, they do drugs. They got bullies. They don't do well in school. I felt white kids was perfect. Cause I watched, grew up watching the Brady bunch and the white kids at these schools.

Andre Norman: Aren't from the Brady bunch. And some of them do live in big houses, but they have bad families or bad family dynamics. So I started helping everybody and I ended up in Guatemala and I'm in Costa Rica. Now I'm in Sweden. Now I'm up there. I'm just, if my thing was, if you call me. And that's what I've been operating under.

Andre Norman: And I just said, I'm just going to keep going. And then in 2016, I got the call from Harvard and they wanted to do business with me. And they said what do you want? I was like, something like top guy in social justice. I'm working in Ferguson and all the rest of this stuff. And they're like, yeah, what do you want?

Andre Norman: I said, I want to fellowship. I say, I want a fellowship. And they gave me one Dr. Charles Ogletree who raised up Baraka. Michelle gave me a fellowship at Harvard law school. And it was 25 years when I got the email a Norman at or whatever he said exactly. And I was like 25 years I've since I came home from prison, I've worked at the white house.

Andre Norman: I've worked at Congress. I worked at London business school. I've been at, worked at MIT. I've worked in 30 different countries, but I never quit on my goal. My dream don't let somebody else redirect your goal and dream. And it took me 25 years. And when I got there, I was just like, it was like, I cried that day.

Andre Norman: They gave me that email. I won't lie. And it was just like, I started to send anybody email to say, look at me. And I thought about it. Nobody believed. I said to hell with them. I'm not sending anybody an email. This is for me. I didn't do this for them. I did this for me. And it was like a great accomplishment in my life.

Andre Norman: People have goals and I work with people, entrepreneurs, business, owners, athletes, they all have goals. My goal is I'm going to die. And when I die, they're going to put a tool from on top of me. I'm working for what they're gonna say on their tombstone right now. It's going to say Harvard fellow. It's going to say honorable.

Andre Norman: Because it was a few years ago, I went to my mom cause my mom's number one issue in life is all my kids are going to be all capped. I leave and I've made enough money. I've done enough, good stuff that I could say to my mom. I would take care of my brothers and sisters. After you're gone, there'll be nobody homeless in our family.

Andre Norman: There will be nobody destitute in our family. We have enough money saved up through the stuff that I've done, that your kids will be okay. And I helped my mother with her biggest issue in life. Her kids will be okay after she left and for my dad, what I did, he's from Petersburg, Virginia, small town, and VA.

Andre Norman: Those really tough to grow up in during Jim Crow south, I went back to Petersburg where I got, I hated hearing his stories, but I went back to Petersburg. I work with all the people, did a whole two weeks of outreach. I've been going down. If my class three and a half, four years now went down there did yeoman's work for two weeks straight.

Andre Norman: Did everything for. And when it was all said and done, we sat in the office. I said, it's time to pay up. I call my dad on speaker phone. And the first person said, hi, my name is John Smith. I'm the mayor of Petersburg, Virginia. And I want to thank you for your son's work. Hi, my name is John Smith. I'm the police chief.

Andre Norman: Hi, I'm John Smith. I'm the fire chief. Hi, I'm the school superintendent. Awful hit town. He grew up in, they all think my father for me, coming in and doing the work that I've done. They sent him this giant plaque, him saying on behalf of the city. He grew up there. He loved that place. He hated the place.

Andre Norman: I didn't know anything about the place, but I went back there for him and I wanted to say, okay, I'm doing this for you. We can't be cool, but I can go to your hometown and make your name good again, our name. Good again. So it was going to say Harvard fellow honorable son, and now I'm working on my next. My next little chisel thing is I'm ending slavery.

Andre Norman: My goal is I want to insulate. In this country, we had a thing called a 13th amendment, which allows the constitutionally to lock people up, enslaved them. If you can say they committed a crime. Now back in the seventies, when slavery first ended, loitering was a crime. Vagrancy was a crime. This was the, say it like you couldn't put them on a plantation.

Andre Norman: So you give them a little misdemeanor crime. You can send us some 2, 4, 5 years of hard labor, which is free labor slavery. And since slavery was ended, all these civil rights and different movements in prop Obama. Now president vice president Harris, we've been tearing down the house of slavery. My goal is to get that 13th amendment changed where it doesn't say you can incarcerate somebody under the pretense of slavery.

Andre Norman: If they commit a crime, I want to take what is deemed the last bastion of slavery, mass incarceration, and throw that last break into the ocean. And I believe you Rob somebody, you should go to jail. I believe you've committed crime. You should go to the. That's not take an eight year old kid not educate him, leave them an abject poverty, give him drugs from outside of the country.

Andre Norman: They come in over police and arrest him for being what we created him to be, and then send him to jail. And during COVID, I think 30% of our prisons have emptied out. So you've been keeping all these people in this prison for all this time, working at max capacities, when COVID came, it showed that you didn't need to keep these people in jail.

Andre Norman: COVID came. You started kicking people out by the dozens, by the thousands, and there's no mass crime wave. There's no mass crime wave. You let out 30% of your prison population and there's no mass crime wave. So holding people in jail is not a prerequisite. It's an intentional act. So why are we keeping people in jail?

Andre Norman: Because we don't want to, we don't want to miss society who don't. We want the society, black and brown men. 4% of the country is black men between the ages of 18 and 30. Those 4% make up over 40% of the prison system, which doesn't make sense. Yeah. So I want a Harvard fellow, honorable son last brick in the ocean, on my tombstone.

Andre Norman: I keep trying to make, buy a boat or a plane or a Bentley on my tombstone. I'm nobody. My kids are not going to sit around and say, what should we chisel on dad's tombstone? I'm not leaving it up to them. I'm taking control of what goes on my tombstone. And right now I've got Harvard fellow and honorable son and I'm working on some more shit.

Andre Norman: I love it. Love.

Srini: So I do have a question about the period of both, of your moment of redemption as well as coming out of prison. So you have this sort of moment in which you make a drastic change, where you go from being this, violent person who everybody looks up to, Hey, I'm done with all this nonsense.

Srini: I'm going to be, I'm heading to. What does that do to your friendships? Like these people are the ones who I'm guessing are the ones that you have been closest to this entire time. So how does that dynamic change? And then the other question I have is about actually coming out, because you mentioned so many people end up back there and I've had other people who told me that coming out is actually much harder than going in.

Srini: Like one of our former guests said, when you come out, everything just feels overwhelming. Like she was telling me she couldn't even go into a grocery store because she had not seen that much stimulus. So she had to be very mindful about stores. She went into, she said it was much harder than you think coming out.

Srini: But then the other thing is, you look at recidivism and I very distinctly remember this moment. I was, it was the day that we went to visit San Quintin. Yo. And of course, there's all this protocol and procedures just to go inside the prison as a visitor, as you probably know, better than anybody.

Srini: And while we were waiting, I guy who had served a sentence for 30 years walked out of the. And he had somebody there to take him home. And and I remember that night, I had dinner with a former podcast guest who had also been in San Quintin. And I remember telling him the story. He said, wait a minute.

Srini: And he's do you have a picture or anything? He's oh my God, I know this guy. He was like, thank you for telling me. But from what I understand, people are set up to fail when they come out. Like we don't have structures and regulation to actually, set them on a path that doesn't put them back where they're at.

Andre Norman: Okay. I'm going to cover the first question. My friends initially thought I was crazy. They were thought I lost my mind. And they thought Dre did snapped people snap every day in jail. It is lose. A lot of people just go crazy native stock during the shuffle when they started hearing voices.

Andre Norman: So people thought Andre hit his wall. He went crazy. Initially when I started making momentum, people were like, okay, we're seeing them, but we don't think it's gonna work. It's never gonna work what I'm saying. So when I walked out of jail, I actually walked out. It gave people permission to try the same thing.

Andre Norman: So prior to me, those is crazy. It'll never work is stupid. And then when it, boom at work, not everybody wants to do it. So I talked to my mental health counselor. I talked to my GED teacher, enrollment went through the roof. The day I walked out of prison. When you got that guy out of here, this go back to Jackie Robinson.

Andre Norman: He wasn't the best baseball player. And when he got through and he got food and everybody's Jackie can go. I can go. And if he can do it, I can do it gave permission to other people to try to better their lives. Because the system is designed to destroy you. The system is designed to beat you down is only in the last 15 years.

Andre Norman: They call it this concept of reentry. And we want to help people. No, you don't. In theory, you do because it's public pressure. The public is saying you've been holding these people for 10, 20, 30 years. What are you doing? We're coming home and killing them. So they had to come up with the concept of re-entry.

Andre Norman: Now you're asking the people for tasks, holding you in torturing you as to helping you. I asked you this question. If I took you to the middle east someplace and some oncotic group snatched you up and threw you in a prison, how many years would you have to be in that prison before you trusted them?

Srini: God forbid that I ever ended up in the suffering.

Srini: I don't wait a long time.

Andre Norman: How many years would you need to spend as an American citizen? A good blue, red, white, and blue guy and our kind of prison before you trusted your captors.

Srini: I don't think I

Andre Norman: ever would. That's what you're dealing with in America. You have black people. Who've been raised up in a system where they've been oppressed and beat down and you're throwing them into prison.

Andre Norman: Now you're saying, when are you going to, we need you to trust us for the last 50 years of incarceration. We've been oppressing and dominating and crushing you. Now we need you to trust them. The fact that you might be here illegally, the fact that you might be here innocent. The fact we've been beating the shit out of you for 20 years, the fact that we've been doing whatever do your communities will ever forget about that.

Andre Norman: I need you to trust us because there's social pressure on us as corrections to say that we're helping you. You're not going to get inmates. Trusting staff is just not going to happen because it's too much history there that says you can't be trusted, or you shouldn't be trusted. So you're asking the people who they distrust the most, that they should trust them.

Andre Norman: This is why recidivism is so high, because why there are programs. I want people to be clear. There were, there are programs in jail, but the people don't trust the programs no more. So if I took you to our Catholic camp and last two or three years, I said, they going to teach you how to read. Now in Arabic would teach you how to do this.

Andre Norman: They're going to teach you to do it. If you do go, you're not going to trust. Can. You notice that there's some kind of trap door or something saying nothing bad about this somewhere. There's something negative about this someplace in here, because you just inherently don't trust the enemy. And for young black kids who take the criminal justice route, not all black kids, police and law enforcement is the enemy.

Andre Norman: So if you're a young black kid and you're in a criminal way, law enforcement is the enemy. So now I'm being held captive by my enemy and I'm supposed to trust my enemy hard, if not impossible. So my friend. Trying to now we didn't trust them and you don't really need to trust them to get the services, but it is a roadblock in that relationship space.

Andre Norman: So what I've been when I came home, it gave my friends permission and other people permission to try the services, but not established relationships. And since I've been home, one of the first things your friend was right. When I came home is talking, cars is talking. Phones is why people drive into my neighborhood.

Andre Norman: And I went my first day out prison pro-life as youth center. I wanted to go to youth center to talk to the kids. Cause I promised him that I would cause I was running a program at the state prison with the kids from juvie when I walked into use. And I know what I saw and what I felt there was a locked facility.

Andre Norman: These kids went to lock facility. And when I walked in to go talk to them, guess why I was inside of a locked facility. And I felt at ease and I felt that. Because I understood being in a locked facility. So every single day for the first three weeks, I would go up to the juvenile center to volunteer mainly because I wanted to help the kids.

Andre Norman: And secondarily, because I knew how I could feel safe in a locked facility, nothing was going to be talking to me. Nothing was going to be moving. It was gonna be nobody talking about it, dog. I'm in a locked facility and I feel comfortable here. I would volunteer so much. It was pathetic before I worked there, but that was my decompression time.

Andre Norman: I could go in here. And for these two or three hours, I'm safe because I it's, I understand the spacing because the mental trauma of being locked in a facility institutionalized for 14 years, didn't walk away. They didn't let me out. So I needed to go to the juvie center and volunteer. So I could feel safe for three, four hours a day because I'm overwhelmed at every turn by phones, cell phones, cars, people going come in is all kinds of stuff happening.

Andre Norman: I couldn't keep. What I would do is go to the center for three, four hours in this hangout. Sometimes I say in the six, seven hours. Cause I knew when I was in that lock facility, juvenile or not, I was in a atmosphere in a space that I understood and I felt safe. And over time I let that go. I want another thing I used to do.

Andre Norman: I literally I'd be sitting in my bed 10 o'clock, 11 o'clock at night, and I'm having anxieties about being free. I'm having guilt about my friend's stuff. I would get in my car. I would drive out to the prison, which is only 45 minutes outside of the city. And I set up on the highway, back from the highway.

Andre Norman: I could see the prison, I could see over the prison wall and I could see like the commissary. I could see the laundry while I used to work. I could see the housing units that sit up there for an hour and a half. And I don't know, highway just looking at the prison. I knew who was in what cell? I probably did that four or five times.

Andre Norman: I just drive out to the prison and set up on the highway in the city. 11, 12, 1 o'clock. And this, I felt connected to my folks because that's why I grew up. That's exactly. I grew up in that building and all my friends were in that building. All my memories are in that building. So it was probably a good four or five times.

Andre Norman: I drove out to the prison and just sat up on the highway and just sat there. Didn't go near the water. Didn't go. They sat there and felt connected to my, to the folks that I had left behind. So between driving out to the prison and go into the juvenile center, that's how I got over my being overwhelmed.

Andre Norman: When you come into society, because now you're taking a person who didn't get an education who has immense trauma, who has no skills. Who's been in prison and traumatized and institutionalized for ten, twelve, fourteen years. You phoned them into a world moving a thousand miles an hour. When he left, it was moving 20 miles an hour and he couldn't keep up.

Andre Norman: Then now he told him in the world is moving a thousand miles an hour. He definitely can't keep it. And it's you go to what you feel comfortable doing. So you go around and people in the places where you feel comfortable. You're saying those are probably bad places which leads to, okay. Did anybody help me with my trauma in jail?

Andre Norman: Probably not. Anybody helped me with anything else in jail? Probably not. And it's not just the physicality prisons about mental people. There's three types of people in prison. Is it 10% who govern the leaders is the 60% who are the rank and file the soldiers. Then it's 30% of people who get abused, raped, and beat.

Andre Norman: Just waking up that a victims. And one of those three guys, all three of those guys walk out of prison. The guy who was the leader, he has a F not a false sense. He has a sense of how he should be talked and treated, but he walks out. You're nobody. It's like a freshman going to college. You're nobody. I don't care how cool you were at your high school.

Andre Norman: You're nobody. And that nobody thinks hard to contend with when you've been somebody for so long. Your word governor's eye for death. Now you're nobody get in the back of the bus. Get out of the way. Do you have this? Do you have that? So that's a culture shock. Then there's the soldier who's been taking orders from the boss for 10, 15 years.

Andre Norman: He needs somebody to tell them what to do. Now you have to figure it out by himself. He doesn't have to figure it out. So he's floundering because he's looking for commands and there's no commands. So he's stuck. He take the person who was raped, beaten, robbed for 10, 15 years. If he needs his immense therapy, he's a victim.

Andre Norman: He's been tortured for 14 years. He woke up everyday for 14 years. Someone is there going to happen to me again today? Is it going to happen again today? And now you let that guy out. If somebody is on the back, them all, you're a tough guy. You did 14 years in prison. You're a warrior. No, you're not. We're saying there's three levels of people and there's three levels of trauma.

Andre Norman: It's not one size fits all. So people take it as one size fits all approach, You can stick those three people in the same room and say, Hey, here's one piece of paper, figure it out. Nobody's taken into account. The real trauma that happens. I'm not excusing why people are in jail or whatever real shit happens behind those walls.

Andre Norman: And that has effect on the individual. And that individual is walking out and the people who are stepping up to help them has no understanding of what it's like to wake up every day, waiting to be raped, waking up every day, waiting for someone to give you orders, to go stab somebody we're going to have every day, having the ability to give an order to go stab somebody.

Andre Norman: This is trauma. And if you don't know who you're talking to, you most likely are going to miss. So when these guys are coming home, they're program set up by some people with some great thoughts and intentions, but they don't understand the people. They have no understanding of what they've been through and what they're thinking in their modalities.

Andre Norman: So 89, 90% of the time they get it wrong. Loving people is not there. It's understanding where they've been and what they've been through and helping them understand and process that I told the kids, I came home, you're going to jail because you can't process. What's happened to you. And that's why you're, off-tracking out here.

Andre Norman: Now. You want to deal with 10, 12, 15 years, and nobody's taught you how to process that. So you get back at square one times 20, your processes, all messed up. Your thoughts was all messed up and it's just, is this tough? That's not including the emotional attachment of having to deal with family and relationships and kids just walking out into the world is tough.

Andre Norman: Wow.

Srini: Wow. I feel like I could talk to you for three hours. You're just a wealth of new, fascinating stories and wisdom. This has been truly mind blowing. I know what I know now. I, Ben said you've got to have an Andre on your show. Because this has just been so eye-opening and like I said, I feel like we could easily talk for three hours about this stuff.

Srini: There's just so much here.

Andre Norman: And there's a few things I want to say before we go one, please. I accept things. What they are and Hey me, since when George Floyd died, my phone rang off the hook. I had hundreds of my white friends who are CEOs and business leaders and entrepreneurs around the world wanting to know how do they navigate social justice in 2020 now, 2021.

Andre Norman: And there's been people who've been helping the black cause and helping inner cities. But now, since they didn't keep a record of it, people are challenging them talking about you. Haven't been helpful. And there's people haven't done anything. This reminded of business day. You're a racist. Now, if you can finally prove what you've done for black people, and then there's the, okay, why did this?

Andre Norman: What's not enough. I did this. It's not enough. I did this. It's not enough then what is it? Think about this. If you walk down the street and there's a guy outside with change, he got a little cup and he's begging for change. How much is enough to give him if you give them $10? Is that enough? What do you set more?

Andre Norman: If you give him a hundred dollars, is that enough? Give him $500. Is that enough? Give him a thousand. He, you always take more. So right now you're trying to give money to the homeless guy. And then they're saying it's not enough, but how much is it now? Nobody knows you give all your money. It's technically still not enough.

Andre Norman: Now, if you sit down with demand to find out why he's homeless and what his issues are and help them fix that, who say it might cost you a thousand times less, but that's enough relationships is what's missing. If you establish a relationship, then you can help hear the person help fix the person help.

Andre Norman: We get redirected person. So money in the cup is no relationship. So there's never enough. You'll never be a number five. Oh, my wife, companies and friends, simply throwing money into the NAACP college fund. It'll never be. Because it's there's no relationship. You have to have some kind of relationship with the person you're trying to help for, to be meaningful and received.

Andre Norman: And minus in relationship being established, it'll never be enough. And you always be called out for not doing enough. So I'm helping them understand how to make connectivity, where creating relationships. So it's not about how much money you give, but the intent in what you give in the space, in what you give and understanding of what you give.

Andre Norman: You're saying again, it's not so much the money. It's the relationship in the thinking behind the money that matters. And I just, I don't want people to act. My number one mentor is Orthodox Jewish rabbi. His name is Natanz Schaffer, and I met him in jail and he taught me all the premises of respect, attentiveness responsibility, helping people serving hood.

Andre Norman: And he taught me how to be here. And no black people wanted to come there and me, but this old Jewish guy came and befriended me and he became my counsel. And to this day, he's my number one rental. And you don't have to be black to be my mentor. You would have to be from the hood to be my mentor. Just care about me.

Andre Norman: Be consistent, have capacity and have courage in saying those things matter. So it's like people think what do we need to do? You need to sit down and have a conversation and ask real questions. You're saying, ask real questions of yourself, ask real questions that people be. I went to a baseball game once it was St.

Andre Norman: Louis against somebody game six, that is old white, couple of melanomas who came down to watch the game. And we were up there together and I literally spent seven innings answering every black question they've ever had in their life. You'll probably in his seventies. You're like, they're going to die in 20 years.

Andre Norman: And they have all these questions of why black people do stuff. They never had a chance to ask them. And when they met me, it just turned out to the dynamic because I'd asked him. And we sat there for seven innings. I answered every black question that had ever had. And then people kept trying to save me.

Andre Norman: I said, I'm good. They need to get this off their chest. So there's white people who are listening to this podcast who have questions and they know they do, but they don't know how to ask them. They're scared and easy, uncomfortable. And until we start having uncomfortable conversations, it's never going to be fixed.

Andre Norman: I'm saying I have a friend named Keith Cunningham. He says, until the unspoken is spoken, you can't get a solution. So you can't hide. The thing is really bothering you in your heart and think you're going to get it fixed. So you have to have these conversations, you have to own these questions. You have to own your space.

Andre Norman: And then they say, okay, then we go from there. There's no right. There's no wrong. I'm not here to make you feel bad for being white. I tell people, I work with rich white kids as never let anybody make you feel bad for what you have, but you should feel bad if you don't take what you have and do the best with it.

Andre Norman: You say, make the most. I don't have all this opportunity and squander it. That's disrespectful. I don't need you to send you towards to the south side of the city. Take your gifts, go to college, open a company, and then hire people. That's what you do. That's how you help the poor you. What I'm saying, since you are privileged, use your privilege to open doors down the line, get your degree.

Andre Norman: Don't drop out of college. Get your degree. Open a company, open law firm to go help people dropping out of college is helping nobody get your life together. Then reach out and stop where you live. There's enough white kids in this country. Who's suffering it. I'm pro black, but I want all kids to be well.

Andre Norman: So help the people where you live, and then that'll give you the courage and the wherewithal to reach out beyond that. If you're not helping your own kids, I don't want you to much as you probably ain't good at it. If you ain't got time to help your own kids, please stay away from mine. What I'm saying, help your kids first.

Andre Norman: Don't feel bad that you have no, I can't do this. It's not politically correct. I don't care about political correctness. When it comes to my son comes from. I help him. He's straight now. I help other kids. I wasn't helping my own kid. I be here hypocrite trying to help somebody else's. I just want people to know, we have to accept what is, we have a dual system country that favors white people, and we have some other systems in place that aren't really good.

Andre Norman: But I'm saying for long-term growth and connectivity amongst people in this country. And I say it let's dismantle some of the BS, that's holding it down. We know what it is. We have an educational system that doesn't educate black kids. Doesn't educate poor kids. This kids in rural areas that don't get educated to who are white.

Andre Norman: But if you go back to slavery, there was a time as a slave. It was against the law and then punishable by death. If you learn how to read or write that's fact, that's when slavery first started, let's fast forward to 2021. We have 40, 50, 60% dropout rates. There's so many communities you're not educating the kids still.

Andre Norman: We can go get moon rocks from Mars. We can teach a third grade. It has to be way we can teach a third grade science and math. If we can find moon, rocks and Mars, we've got people flying rocket ships on their own to the moon. Now come on, Elon Musk built his own rocket ship, but we can't teach a third grader.

Andre Norman: How to count. You have to say at some point, this is intentional. Let's fix that. I'm not saying give everybody 40 acres in the mule. Let's give them good public schools. We can teach them how to be educated because an educated mind, two things that's neither Robert bank and you can't a slave an educated mind.

Andre Norman: So if you educate somebody they're less likely to Rob a bank, sell drugs or break in your house. But same token. If you educate somebody, now you've got to compete against them and you can't enslave them in the I'm better than you mentality goes away. And the privilege goes away. White privilege is really rooted in the fact of education.

Andre Norman: You have a superiority system where education is the defining. There is the educated versus uneducated right now. It's not just white, black. And I believe if I can fix one thing, it'd be a public school system. If we fixed the public school system where mass majority of poor people live and go, we would write this country in two or three generations and all this turmoil left and right would probably go away.

Andre Norman: But if we don't educate people, you're going to keep dealing with uneducated people doing uneducated shit, which is not good. And prisons will save for drugs and stay full and treatment centers will stay full because we won't do the basics.

Srini: Wow, incredible. I have one final question for you, which is how we finish all of our, yeah.

Srini: I'm a


Andre Norman: Sox fan.

Andre Norman: What is it that you think LeBron brought in? LeBron brought it out. Okay. I did

Srini: not know that

Andre Norman: did a red Sox.

Srini: What is it that you think makes somebody or something unmistakable?

Andre Norman: What makes somebody unmistakable? When somebody determined that they love themselves and they invest in themselves and they're not scared of shine and show who they are and what they believe that makes somebody unmistakable.

Andre Norman: When you say I am okay with me and I'm going to be the best me that I can be in my space. And it doesn't matter where I rank in the world. I'm just going to be the best me that I can be. And I'm going to be free to be myself, that freedom and that acceptance gives other people the ability and power to do the same.

Andre Norman: And when you accept no something, I'm not going to be the number one basketball player in the world. I'm not gonna be the number one CEO in the world. I'm not going to be the number one dad in the world, but I can be really efficient and really great. And stop chasing the Joneses are the number one tag.

Andre Norman: So I tell people I have the number one prison redemption story in the world, and I might do that's my opinion, but I might've known one dad in the world. No, I had a number one son in the world. No, I had a number one polo player in the world. No. There's, most people, won't be number one at anything globally, except who you are, embrace who you are.

Andre Norman: And when you accept that and embrace that, and then you can give that to somebody else to do the same. And everybody's fighting to be like the number one guy. There's only one room and number one, there's only room for one at number one. That's one. Let's be us and in the Bible. Cause I've since joined a church and I don't beat up people for going to church anymore.

Andre Norman: I haven't but in the Bible does it say, and they say, who was the greatest amongst us and it's to serve it. So I wake up every day and I say, who can I help you? So yesterday I was in Utah trying to help, not trying, helping a family get better and get home. And week before that, I was in Hampton, Virginia doing five days of outreach, helping people get home.

Andre Norman: And during miles of Virginia, I got sick. I went home and spent my two days off in bed, drinking NyQuil and orange juice. And when I got to Utah, they didn't want to hear about me being sick from Virginia. They just wanted me to show up and do my job. Arizona this week, helping people next week, I'll be in Vegas next week.

Andre Norman: I'll be in Atlanta and I just wake up every day and I want to help people and I'm happy. Then I'm happy. Then I don't have mains Instagram followers. I don't have people banging on my door asking for autographs, but I'm happy with my life. And I have a goal, Harvard fellow honorable son, last brick. I want to go if everybody finds a goal and we have time to, we have time not to hate on each other.

Srini: I can't think of a more fitting way to end our conversation. You have an eye-opening inspiring thought provoking, pretty much everything I thought you would be in so much more. I can't thank you enough for taking the time to join us and share your story, your wisdom and your insights. Listeners, where can people find out more about you, your work and everything later up to

Andre Norman: If they want to find out about me, you can definitely get personalities and permanent by Dr.

Andre Norman: Ben Hardy, if you like, I'm in that book. There's another book I talk about called NR by John O'Leary. He's a great guy to St. Louis. Awesome story. That book. So if you're a reader, you can get an all by John O'Leary personalities and permanent by Dr. Ben haughty, or you can by ambassador hope by a hundred Norman all three on Amazon.

Andre Norman: And you can go to a hundred and on there, all my social media stuff is if you go to Google or YouTube for name and stuff, And my thing is simple. If there's somebody on this broadcast, who's listening is having problems or struggling. Whether you're a mom with three kids or your mom and dad with two kids, or you're a business owner, and you're not getting stuck.

Andre Norman: If they call you, I'm gonna put it on you because they're your people. They reach out to you and say, Hey, I need to connect with Drake. It's as simple as that, I don't care if you own a fortune 500 company or you got a bike shop, if you need help, I'll help you as it is. It's not a lot to that. So I just want to help people be better.

Andre Norman: And if you want to help people be better, I can show you at a friend yesterday. He says, listen, I'm 70 years old, the one response, cause I've ever met in my life. He wants to sell his company and come hang out with me and help people. I was like, cool, that works. I said, sell your company. He's considering selling his company.

Andre Norman: So yo, I've had people say to me over the years, he says I can just hang out with you and do what you do. That'd be great. There's a guy, one story from Sweden. I went to Sweden. I did a whole 30 day tour in Sweden and one of the coolest guys in the country in one of the richest, I was hanging out with them.

Andre Norman: And I said man, I said, I've always wanted to buy stuff and you're super rich and you can buy anything you want. What do you do now? He says, I consolidate my businesses. I don't get rid of him that I make sure my kids are okay. And then I go out and I want to learn how to help people. He said, why do you think you're here?

Andre Norman: I'm learning that from you. I was like, wow, I want to be the richest guy in the world. And the rich kind of where I want to be like me. So there was nothing wrong with being me is what he told me. He says being used, actually honorable. So if you want to sell your company or consolidate or come learn how to help people, how boy you were saying, we can use more help on this side.

Srini: Amazing. I get, like I said, I can't thank you enough for taking the time to join us. And for everybody listening, we will wrap the show with.