Yesterday (May 11), T.I. delivered a heartfelt address about his life and future plans while hosting a Harlem anti-gun rally with Reverend Al Sharpton, Queen Pen, and Kevin Liles.
I owe us an apology. The same violence and gun activity that Im attempting to stop, I once was a part of it and played a huge part in promoting [it], T.I., real name Clifford Harris, admitted to fans and media. A lot of people did it as a fashion statement. For me, it was more so a way of life. It was the lifestyle I was raised in. I carried guns and sold dope as a 13, 14, and 15 year old. All the experiences I gathered in that time [are] exactly the tools I need to get out here and reach the people that are doing what I used to do.
As one of handful of true superstars in Hip-Hop, T.I. detailed that his criminal background will allow him to have the ear of troubled youth, and hopefully change their destinies.
These kids know I lived the life theyre now living, he explained. Ive seen the outcome of their mistakes. Ive caught cases, Ive been to jail, and had attempts on my life. Im standing [and] Ive learned from it I have the experience of living this life of crime, I know where theyre headed and I can tell them. And theyll listen to me because theyll know its the truth.
Because much of his community service is the result of his 2008 felony gun conviction, many critics and fans have questioned the sincerity of T.I.s recent actions.
Aware of this skepticism, the Atlanta native challenged his critics to scrutinize his past record.
Anybody who thinks Im talking just to hear myself talk, google Clifford Harris. My record is public record, he declared. Now that Im T.I. theres nothing I can do to hide my past. But Im not ashamed of my past, I embrace my past. The same thing you may frown upon, its the same thing that will make me proud when Im able to turn your son, your daughter, nieces, and nephews life around.
Opening up about the murder of his best friend Philant Johnson, T.I. stressed that the results of shootings extend past the victim and serve to decimate communities and generations.
I was so hurt at the loss of his life, that I didnt even take knowledge of the fact that I still had mine T.I. reflected. I had to deliver the news to a hurt mom that your son left with me, but because of me he aint coming back. A lot of times when we shoot guns, we only understand what is going on between the person that has the gun and person thats being shot at. We dont understand the pain that goes on with mothers, father, sisters, and brothers. There are household being destroyed. Youre not just killing a man, youre killing a family. But just like we can destroy, we can rebuild. Thats what Im here to do.
This month, T.I. will begin serving a one year and a day sentence under his guilty plea on felony weapons charges.
He plans to continue his community efforts upon his release later this year or in 2010.