Trevell “G-Dep” Coleman has one of the most unique stories in Hip-Hop history. In 1993, a robbery attempt turned into a shooting for the then 19 year-old. After escaping, he carried on with this passion – rap music. He signed with Sean “Diddy” Combs and pumped out some addictive songs, regarded as classics by many. His debut album Child of the Ghetto is a rare gem of an album that is heralded by enthusiasts. However, the glam and the glaze of fame eroded and Trevell Coleman had to live with himself. Over time. he became so wracked with guilt that he turned himself in to police for the ’93 shooting, not realizing the man had died. On December 15, 2010 everything changed. The rap star walked into 25th Precinct to turn himself in. Eventually, he was sentenced to 15-years to life in prison on May 8, 2011.
This week, Trevell was able to momentarily walk out of jail, reuniting him with his twin sons and ex-wife Crystal Sutton. The reunion was bitter sweet as he was burying his father. On the other side, he has a family in Harlem that he’s unable to provide for, which is burden that falls on Crystal. I reached out to Ms. Sutton to get her take on how this has impacted her and their boys. Here is what she had to say.
AllHipHop: This week, Trevell was allowed to come home to attend his father’s funeral. How was that for you and your sons?
Crystal Sutton: When someone passes you feel a great sadness or it could be relief, if they were suffering. Dep’s father’s passing was sadly over shadowed by the excitement we felt. Dep has not seen his sons in a little over 4 years. Yes he calls regularly and he sees pictures of them growing, but being in their presence, the same room, next to each other is such a different feel. The days leading up to his arrival were stressful for me. I didn’t eat, I could hardly sleep. I was on a mission, the boys had to see their father and nothing could interfere, sadly and I do feel bad for this, not even the death of his father William “Butch” Goines.
I called every person I knew for help and/or information on how this process works when someone is coming from prison. I received so many different answer it only built the anxiety in me. I kept sitting the boys down to explain. “If something goes wrong, they may not let Daddy out of the vehicle. You will see your father in chains, they may take off but I’m not sure. So be prepared. He won’t be able to stay long, but we are going to stand outside. He has to walk-in and pass us. They may not let you come near him.”
All prep so I could prepare their feelings and mine. So they would not be frightened. I’ve explained to them hundreds of times: “Your father made a fatal judgement when he was young, but he wanted and needed forgiveness and peace.” Its not easy explaining to them, when all they have are the good memories. I never want to take that from them. All I could do was hope and pray that seeing him in shackles, hands held close to his waist that those memories would not fade from their minds.
They finally had the chance to sit down with their father, shackled or not I could see that they were determined. All that nervous energy seemed to melt away. They both showed him video after video of animations they had made. Visitors gained Trevell’s attention for a moment, but the boys made sure that their father stayed close.
Our time was up, Trevell had to go back. That one hour visit felt like 10 minutes. I could see the expression on the boys face change from happy to a worried look.
They gathered their items and we walked outside. The entire time I watched them and their expressions began to change. They stood outside for pictures, posing like they were strong soldiers chest held.out high. Just for that moment I believe they felt like any average kid. Like those kids who have both parents, like those kids who didn’t have an incarcerated parent. For the first time I along time they had mother and father standing.together as a family. But the voice came, “its time to go.”
As Trevell was escorted into the van I saw tears in both of their eyes. I saw a lot of pain and I saw resentment. At that moment one of them demanded to go home, he turned and walked away, his brother followed. Family walked over in an attempt to console them, but they didn’t want to hear it. They just wanted to leave.
I tried to convince them to stay for the funeral, but nothing was changing their.mind. Tears now running down their checks, the first years I’ve ever seen them shed for their father. At this moment I knew they fully understood, the chains that seemed to be invisible to them during their visit became visible to them. I believe that they understood that their life would not and could not normal life. Their father is incarcerated convicted of a crime they knew nothing about, but they are beimg forced to pay the price of their father’s sin.
When we mention single mothers or fathers, that generally means that one parent has primary custody, but you are truly a single mother in the purest sense. How do you deal with it and does Trevell aid in parenting?
I don’t have any option but to just deal. There is no one for me to say hey can you go to Parent Teacher conference or can you take boys to doctor or pick up this or that – its just me. If I don’t do it, who will? When you have children you know being a parent is 24/7. But when you have a partner present to share in the responsibility it makes it a little easier. I’m sure I make it look great, but being brutally honest being a single parent sucks (exclaims). I’m joyful and happy of all my children (she also has an older daughter and son) can and will accomplish, but parenting alone is no easy task.
Dep does his best to stay connected with the boys and, as they get older, I see more challenges. He has made attempts to do homework over the phone, but their attention tends to wander. Its not the same as b
eing present or the parent being around. If something happens I can’t call him immediately. If one of the guys is sick or wins an award they can’t share that feeling with their father immediately.
How do your twin sons – who are at a very impressionable age – deal overall?
I’m so very proud of them. In the beginning it was hard, they acted out with anger and tantrums. At such a young it was incredibly difficult for me to explain so they would understand, but they did. Its not like I could hide it from them. As a parent you want to keep your child safe from any harm or pain. But it was on the news, in the paper and when they went to school someone was going to mention it. So I tried to prepare them. And if tantrums is what I had to deal with – I was happy that they expressed in any form and got it out. As they have gotten older, they understand better. I feel that we wear the proverbial scarlet letter. Everyone has different opinions on our circumstance. What could have been done differently, what they would have done. In the end its them – the boys – who are ultimately effected. Today, Trevell and I have both instilled all we can in them. Tomorrow we will do more. They have to find a way to accept this path this turn in their life, day by day and as they grow into men.
Have you found any support groups or organizations to aid in your very unique circumstance?
Support for children of incarcerated parents is definitely hard to find. I was only able to find an organization in Brooklyn – Children of Promise. They have an afterschool program, which offers counseling, support and homework. They also run bus trips to different prisons so the children can stay connected with their parent. This helps the child and helps the parent when its time to transition back into the world. I became increasingly frustrated with with the lack of services offered to children with an incarcerated parent, so I decided to work on my own program. Now being a single parent, working and handling a not for profit was going to have its challenges. So I’ve been working with SCAN NY (Supportive Children’s Advocacy Network). There are more and more minorities being locked away but who is checking on the children being left behind. Who is there to ensure they don’t follow the same path?
RIP William “Butch” Goines