Julius Price is a 23-year-old black man, who was born in Birmingham, Alabama. He was raised in the University Village neighborhood on Chicago’s West Side.
Despite the opinion of others and against all the odds, Price has a story to tell beyond the narrative onlookers imagine based on his appearance.
Price is an excellent example of the power of change. On his journey toward a more positive path, he is striving to find himself and live a life of purpose. He aspires to live his dreams out loud, becoming wealthy and free from trouble. When asked about his hope for the future, he said:
Man, that’s kind of a tough one, [since sometimes] my vision and my eyesight change [as I move] further down the path. My dreams? My real dreams are to be wealthy and to live my life trouble free. Yeah, I wanna live like a king, that’s my dream. My goals? My goal is to change my life and myself.
Price displays an ambitious mindset that optimistically will get him far. He was asked to describe his personality and share his idea of success. He paused momentarily, seeking to present a well thought-out and straightforward answer, before rendering this response:
Strong willed, strong-minded, and… I would say, the life of the party in most cases. Impatient. Team leader. How do I define success? I would define success as, when you are your own boss, no matter what. It [doesn’t] matter what situation it is. As long as you are your own boss, you are successful, because in this world everybody gotta answer to somebody.
To some, Price does not look like a future success story. He understands the dynamics of this thought process but will not allow it to deter him from achieving his goals. When speaking of his childhood and those who had the most significant influence on his life, Price explained:
The way I was raised. [I had] different problems I had to face. My grandma, my dad, my brother, that’s about it.
Price realizes that his current circumstances, as well as many of the obstacles he faces on a regular basis, such as gang influence, gun violence, racial profiling, being a black male, and many other problems, can serve as constant distractions. However, he still wakes up every day with a strong determination not to falter because of outside forces.
The honest answer [is] when I wake up every morning [I ask] — [expletive] what problem I’m gonna get today. That’s my honest answer. I don’t know man; it’s a lot of [negative stuff] going on. So, I know it’s gonna be something new, and I [ask myself], how I’m [going to] deal with it.
When questioned about the motivation to get involved with The News School (TNS,) as well as other programs offered by UCAN, an organization dedicated to at-risk youth, Price explained:
When they told me that it was like, graphic design and Photoshop, I was already familiar with that because that’s what I went to college for. I still want a career in that field, so I figured like, why not [re-familiarize myself] with it if I’m pursuing that in the future anyway. [I] might as well take the opportunity right now. I heard about it through one of my job coaches at UCAN. I told her I was interested. I got involved through UCAN through [the] One Summer Chicago employment [program]. How I got involved with them, I got an email from them, and they said they were satisfied with my work performance from last year, so they asked me if I wanted to do it again. I told them yes, so I stayed with them. Then I networked with some people there. Then they told me about UCAN; then I networked with people from the agency. Then they told me about The News School.
Price accepts responsibility for his past actions along with the accompanying consequences. He refuses to allow them to define him; instead, he has extracted the lessons each experience taught him. As a young man in search of a brighter future, he is working hard to make the necessary adjustments and rescript harmful habits and behaviors.
He is a fighter, not physically, but for survival. Price perseveres because he recognizes the war against his potential as a young black male in today’s society. Nonetheless, he contends:
I accept that if I keep the same mindset I’ve got, I’ll most likely go down the wrong path again. Every day I am really tempted to do the same stuff I’ve been doing, each day it gets easier to say no.
Price has embraced a new level of spirituality that helps him stay focused and “keeps him from being overly reckless.
Spirituality plays a role in my everyday life and how I deal with some situations, whether they are bad or good and how to view certain people. It has a huge influence.
Price feels that he may wear a target on his back each day because of society’s perception of the black man, but he refuses to be a victim. The 23-year-old believes and attributes the environment in which he grew up for shaping his hard exterior.
He believes he must be tough to survive.
In times past, Price allowed unresolved anger to direct his choices and poor behavior, but now he makes a conscious decision to temper himself and not become victimized by the actions of others. Price chooses to allow positive thoughts to influence his current narrative because he understands it is not the past, but the choices he makes today, that have the power to determine and direct his future.
“I was born with two strikes, being a man and being black. By adding the facial tattoos, that’s strike three,” he said.
Despite his appearance, Price wants to live in a way that causes people to see him for who he is, as a person, rather than judge him based on just his appearance.
Price understands that transformation is a process. As he continues on his path, he is keenly aware of the issues that have been most prevalent in history, many of which are still present today. Although he genuinely believes that history repeats itself, Price also understands that he does not have to become a casualty of the system.
It goes back to slave times. White men would rape black women in front of black men, who were chained up so they can’t do anything but watch. Today, black men are chained up in jails and prisons. Black women are not free, now dependent on the white man to feed and clothe her and her children through state and government funding.
Price vows to stay out of jail and encourages others to do the same as he recognizes this never-ending cycle of dehumanization that he sees inside the predominately black communities. Price vows he will not succumb to the system of revolving doors, thereby contributing to its success.
There are situations and desperate circumstances that Price has encountered throughout his life, but he is determined to rise above them. Instead of succumbing to the pressure of remaining the same, he uses them as fuel to shape his tomorrow.
When he is tempted to turn back, those difficult times serve as a reminder to keep pushing and not return to his old mindset.
Price refuses to get lost in the fight for survival.
I have a lot of experience to offer. Despite the fact that I am only 23, I have been through so much; people couldn’t even imagine.
Price believes, what did not kill him, made him stronger. He uses this strength to rise above his current circumstances and help reposition himself as a voice of influence for future generations.
Written by Alexandria Martin and Parris Winfrey
Interview: Julius Price on Oct 25,2017
Featured and Top Image Courtesy of Staff Photographer Gricelda Vaccaro