PORTSMOUTH, Va. — Darrell Redmond is proof that a broken man can reinvent himself. He made mistakes and paid the price. Now, after more than 20 years behind bars, he’s trying to save the next generation.
Redmond grew up in Portsmouth's Academy Park and London Oaks.
"Both neighborhoods I grew up in were impoverished, poor, barely making it," Redmond said, adding, “they were concerned for one another. I could go next door and ask for some sugar or ask for some eggs."
While many kids were raised by their mothers, Redmond was raised by his father.
"At the age of 12, my father went blind. Diabetes," Redmond said.
Not knowing if his father would live or die was a turning point in Redmond’s life, a turning point that led him to a cycle of bad decisions. His life was fueled by anger and rage, and Redmond built a rap sheet that sent him to prison for 20 years.
I asked Redmond if he thinks there are a lot of people, a lot of kids, who grew up with that same frustration.
"It's not a system, I think, I know. I know that," Redmond said
“There's too much 'talk' today about gun violence. The root of the problem runs deeper,” he told me. "Gun violence is a great problem, but it's like putting a Band-Aid on a bullet hole. If you're not dealing with mental health issues, if you're not dealing with poverty issues, if you're not dealing with mothers who are actually having kids, you’re not really dealing with the problem."
I asked, how easy is it for kids to get their hands on a gun?
"It's very easy, it's very easy. It's a no-brainer," Redmond said.
Why do kids need a gun?
"Because they're scared. Because they're scared. They're afraid. Kids right now are afraid to walk out of their house," Redmond answered.
Whenever he can, Redmond shares his story, telling young people they have the power to choose.
"I tell them I wouldn't change my worst day out here with my best day in prison," Redmond said.
Another thing that needs to change, Redmond said, is for those who make and sell guns to take more responsibility for the problem.
"But we want the people who's at the bottom instead of the people at the top," he added.
Redmond said parents need to put down their guns and pick up their kids.
"A lot of the responsibility comes down to the household and parenting," Redmond told me, adding he's one voice but he speaks for many more with a message everyone needs to hear.
“We need to realize we all are one race, the human race, under one creed, made by one Creator," he said. "I'm not a convicted felon. I'm Darrell Redmond. I'm somebody who made a mistake and made a conscious effort to change. That's who I am."
Redmond also has a message for police: if you didn't grow up in a poor neighborhood, don't come in there with your chest all puffed out.
He also talks about what he's trying to do to help young kids on his Facebook page here.