Exclusive Interview: Jawara Griffin’s Story of Redemption, From a Ward of the System to Helping Juveniles Find Their Purpose

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“No matter what you are going through today, I promise you, you will all be winners in life”

— Jawara Griffin

For the first 12 years of his life, Northern Home alumnus, Jawara Griffin, struggled to find a place to call home as he spent his childhood moving from abandoned buildings, to a crack house, and ultimately, when his mother overdosed for the third time, he landed at the doors of Northern Home, which during the early nineties, had a residential program that housed young boys.

“I came prepared, and that was it. I was twelve years old making these life decisions,” he stated.

Griffin has come a long way though. He now directs this motivational promise towards the youth currently enrolled at Northern Children’s Services (formerly Northern Home for Children,) while reflecting upon how his time at Northern gave him the confidence to overcome a tumultuous past, and taught him to set goals for himself, one jump shot at a time.   

When he turned eighteen, Griffin was recruited for basketball at Mansfield College, and his social worker drove him four hours north to the campus. “He shook my hand and said good luck,” said Griffin.

After graduating from Mansfield with straight A’s, Griffin challenged himself on the other side of the court, making the decision to attend law school. When asked what prompted his decision, he explained that he recalled a vivid childhood memory in which his family believed he would be a lawyer when he grew up.

“In law school I won every award possible. I had never won an award before in my life,” said Griffin, now a public defender in Maryland.

“Do not let your current latitude determine your altitude,” he said, explaining to the children that where they are today does not determine where they are going to be tomorrow.

“I see it as an obligation to visit the kids now. There is power in motivation. I can relate to these kids,” said Griffin.

I recently interviewed Mr. Griffin where he chatted more about his life story, his book Homeboy and what our young Black men in the system need.

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Naomi K. Bonman is a graduate of Clark Atlanta University where she holds her Bachelors of Arts in Mass Media Arts with a concentration in Journalism. She also holds her Masters of Public Administration. She is the Founder and CEO of Awakened Media Enterprises, Inc. which owns Purposely Awakened. She has been in the media field since 2006 covering beats that range from social justice, community, entertainment, sports, fashion/beauty, and culture news.

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