Founder, GW TransportationCommunity Advocate/Mentor
“I don’t feel any hatred or animosity towards my natural mother or father, I don’t remember them.” Clinton Gray's mother was addicted to drugs and his father left before he was born. Clinton was only six-months old when he entered the foster care system. A fire started in the kitchen of his home; the Department of Human Services (DHS) was called and officials for the department found no heat or food within the home. Clinton and his siblings were removed and placed in foster care. He and his older brother Walter were moved to several foster homes due to kids being molested and abused by their caretakers. “My first introduction to real family was with Roosevelt and Mary Scriven.” His mother Mary was a teacher for the Philadelphia School District and his father worked for the TastyKake factory. Clinton and his brother Walter were adopted by the Scriven family.
“You have the power to change the world. But at times you can be your own worst enemy,” is Clinton Gray’s favorite quote, coined by his gym teacher Mr. Rodville. Clinton started boxing at the age of eight before the street life grabbed a hold of him. It took him years of life lessons and traumatic experiences to realize what that truly meant.
Clinton was introduced to the streets at a very early age. He had an uncle who was a member of the Black Mafia, a local gang that was heavily involved in drugs and crime. Clinton in his adolescents found himself admiring this family member. He says, “no one in the family trusted him, but when problems aroused, he was the first one they called for solutions.” He learned, early on, “people admired who they didn’t necessarily like." This made him respect his uncle more, it also ignited his curiosity.
Although Clinton loved and respected his father Roosevelt; the fast-paced life, money and respect he’d seen his uncle receive kept him intrigued. Not to mention the daily struggles his family faced. His mother Mary was diabetic, he emotionally recalls her becoming extremely ill spending weeks in the hospital and almost losing her legs. Shortly after, Clinton’s mother was laid off from her job as a teacher. “My father was a man of pride and I watched as he struggled to keep the family afloat. He worked multiple jobs but still was unable to take care of the essential needs of the family. We were on public assistance; my mother was ill and my father was barely home. “
At the age of thirteen, Clinton decided, he had to make a life altering decision to help his family. “I felt the weight of the world on my shoulders, I had to do something to help my family. They took me in when I had nothing, they were the only family I knew.” Clinton learned a tough lesson. He vividly recalls his ole heads (older men) showing him stacks of money and then introducing the drugs. They said, “we got the money because of the drugs but there’s only two ways out of this life, death or jail”. Clinton began selling drugs and quickly gained respect from his peers in the drug game. “The difference between me and other hustlers was they were using the drugs. I had an advantage because I wasn’t concerned with getting high, I was concerned with helping my father provide for the family the best way I knew how.”
"When I met my wife, my life changed forever; she was the first woman besides my mother that saw something good in me."
Clinton states, his mother and father would never approve of his lifestyle; so, he kept everything hidden. “I had to live a double life, I never stopped going to school but snuck out in the middle of the night to do what needed to be done.” Clinton’s hidden lifestyle went undetected for years before it finally caught up with him. While cleaning, his mother Mary found drugs and money, he had hidden in an old shoe box. She gave him an ultimatum, stating “he needed to stop selling drugs or he had to leave the house”. At this point, Clinton found himself in too deep and made the decision at seventeen to move out of his mother and father’s house to pursue the lifestyle he’d become accustomed too.
“You live by the sword, you died by the sword!!” Is what Clinton’s family said to him in so many words after he’d been shot four-times and was rushed to the hospital by an innocent bystander. He wanted revenge but they told him that’s the price you pay for the life you chose. But Clinton didn’t listen, he was arrogant and sought revenge. Shortly after, he was sentenced to 8 ½ years in prison. “My mother found out I was in prison from a sister within her church, she was devastated.” The last conversation they had echoes in his mind, “she just wanted me to get my act together”. She told me to keep my faith in God. “I never got the chance to tell her I was sorry or how much I loved her. She died while I was in prison, I never got the chance to say goodbye.”
Clinton was released from prison at the age of 27, but tragedy still followed his life. “I lost my father Roosevelt four months later to stage four lung cancer, my older brother a month after that, my nephew committed suicide and my niece was and is still battling mental illness. I never got the opportunity to grieve the loss of my mother and now the weight of the world is on my shoulders again.” Clint reminisces to a darker time, “I was homeless, I didn’t have any money or anyone to turn to. I left prison and didn’t have any opportunities. I went back to the only thing I knew, the streets!! I hustled until I could get back on my feet; I was determined to never be homeless again.”
"When I met my wife, my life changed forever; she was the first woman besides my mother that saw something good in me. Every woman that I had ever been in relationship with encouraged my heinous way of life. Every environment I found myself in promoted negativity. My wife saw something different in me and inspired me to change."In the beginning of the relationship, Clinton says he lied to his wife, “I didn’t want her to know I was still involved in the streets. She like my mother, wanted the best for me. She didn’t desire to take from me but poured into the man she knew I could become."
Clinton says, what really made him change his life is the emotional trauma he caused his wife and daughter the last time he was incarcerated. That was over five years ago, but he still remembers it like it was yesterday. “My daughter Heaven and wife Nadira were deeply hurt by my decisions.” Clinton recalls the emotional trauma his family experienced while he was incarcerated. “My mother-in-law had a stroke and was battling brain cancer; my daughter was afraid, always worrying if I was ok. My wife was trying to financially, physically and emotionally support the family, working three jobs to make ends-meet.” Things got so bad Clinton’s wife fell asleep on the highway and almost died. “I didn’t realize it at the time, but all my efforts to help, hurt my family.”
Clinton’s wife Nadira speaks candidly, “I was upset with him and resented him for all he put us through. I felt like he didn’t have to do the things that he did to support our family. But I had to see the bigger picture, and know that God had a plan for everything we were going through.” I told Clint, “When you go to prison, we all go to prison; you are not doing this on your own. The whole family suffers when you’re not here.”
Clinton knows all too well the strong-hold drugs and violence has had on many impoverished communities. “I witness the younger generation in prison addicted to dope, hallucinating, lacing K2 with dust. The rules have changed, and now it has become cool to be addicted to drugs.” Drugs have devastated many communities in our nation, and have left many without parents. Over 8.3 million children, nearly 12 percent of all children in the United States, live with an addict.
“I was a foster kid, and never got to meet my natural mother or father due to drug addiction.”
History repeats itself, and Clinton found himself a part of the problem. “I spoke with a young man a little while ago and it has stuck with me since," says Clinton. The young man told Clinton, “it was people like you who probably put my mother and father on crack.” Clinton realizes his backward way of thinking hurt his community and has negatively impacted the youth. “I was addicted to money and didn’t realize the lives that were affected. I want to show the youth, there is a better way. Don’t waste your life chasing money, have a purpose. I want to right the wrongs of my past, and empower the community by creating jobs and opportunities that didn’t exist when I came home. My goal is to help the homeless population and citizens returning home from incarceration have a better life.”
The Gray’s look back and reflect on the many lessons learned and want to do whatever they can to help individuals impacted by poverty and mass incarceration. “I know how hard it was to obtain employment and get on my feet after leaving prison, I want to help other individuals.” Clinton has completely shifted gears and uses his gifts to uplift and empower the community. Clinton’s wife Nadira is a Realtor, Event Planner and Motivational Speaker. They also own four businesses, GW Transportation LLC, which assists with logistics and transportation for families needing to visit incarcerated loved ones, No Gray Area Cleaning Services, which provides commercial and residential cleaning services, Occasions From Heaven, which is an event planning business that specializes in planning various events and Heaven’s Candy Store which is a candy store that provides decorative sweet treats for parties and various events. It is named, owned and operated by their daughter Heaven, they are teaching her the importance of entrepreneurship and building up a business from the ground up!!