We interview Author, Pastor Leonard D. Jackson, as he tells how he went from street life to ministering youth from it, in his new book, ‘From the Streets to the Pulpit.’
( Special thanks to Lolita Seals for assistance with this Interview )
EDWS: What’s the title of your book?
Author Leonard: ‘From the Streets to the Pulpit: Rise and Fall of a Powerful Minister’
EDWS: What does that title signify?
Author Leonard: Yes it refers to what I’ve been through and overcame, selling drugs on the streets of St Louis, gang banging, and the change that I’ve made.
EDWS: What part of St Louis are you from?
Author Leonard: I’m from the North Side of St Louis, Cora & Natural Bridge.
EDWS: Tell us a little bit about your book.
Author Leonard: The book goes into detail about how I was introduced to street life and how I changed. When I was younger, a guy used to visit us and throw fists full of money on our bed. He would gloat about all the money he made. On one of his trips my boy’s mother turned to me and said, “I wish I had a drug dealer.” Wanting to please her, she had hooked me up with one of St.Louis’ top drug dealers. The dealer gave me a start with a $100 packet. I give it to a friend. The friend smoked it up. I hid from the drug dealer for 3 weeks. The (drug dealer) called and told me if I didn’t have his money in three days he would kill me.
I got a job to raise enough money to give to pay the dealer back. That’s when I decided to risk it and start selling on my own. I told myself, if I messed it up nobody would be in trouble but me. That’s how I got started in the drug game.
EDWS: How many years would you say you were in the streets?
Author Leonard: From 1988 to 1994, I was deep in the streets.
EDWS: What occurred that made you want to leave street life?
Author Leonard: I began to incur a lot of traps. Some almost deadly. One in particular, was with a dangerous family on our street. The altercation heated to such a point I was nearly bludgeoned with a bat. In that same skirmish a guy pulled his gun on me, made me get on my knees, put the gun my mouth, and pulled the trigger. But the gun didn’t fire.
EDWS: The gun didn’t fire?
Author Leonard: The gun did not fire. Then the guy’s brother intervened, like an angel, and told him, “Don’t (shoot)! That’s a little boy.” The brother allowed me to get up safely and go home.
EDWS: How old were you then?
Author Leonard: I was a sophomore in high school, so I was young.
EDWS: Did you stop selling drugs after that?
Author Leonard: No that was just the beginning. As the years went by and I hustled harder making a lot of money. Change came when I was on the cusp of making my largest drug deal and my brother said I needed to talk to me.
Normally he would try to talk to me about church. I would always leave. But this time God wouldn’t allow me to leave. My brother said, “I don’t know what you’re about to do but God is about to give you a tragedy. He’s offering you a last warning. Warnings always come before destruction,” he said.
I would have bumped him off, but my brother had given a similar warning to my cousin before. My cousin was later killed.
He told me, “I started not to tell you but if I didn’t, your blood would be on my hands.”
So I had a decision to make. I decided to get rid of my drugs and go clean. That’s how I stopped selling drugs.
EDWS: So a divine warning made you quit?
Author Leonard: Yes. I gave it up cold turkey. I went back to making minimum wage at an 8 hour job. Because I knew my end was near if I went back to drugs.
EDWS: Your book title is, ‘From the Streets to the Pulpit.’ Where does the pulpit come in?
Author Leonard: I feel I was called to preach at an early age. So after leaving drugs, I transitioned from the streets to the pulpit. I stopped selling drugs and was called to preach.
EDWS: What do you preach about?
Author Leonard: I designed the book for the youth. I preach about what I’ve been through. Churches and organizations book me to talk to their youth about decisions and right living.
EDWS: What would you like people to know about the book?
Author Leonard: I would like for the parents to sit down and discuss what’s going on in the book – drugs, crime, kidnapping, near death experiences, and decision making. I endured a whole lot in the book, things their children may be going through that parents are unaware of.
Parents who have discussed my book with their kids have given reviews that the book helped their teen. Some say teens have stopped hanging out in the streets.
You know teens are selling drugs but they don’t know the traps. The death, and ending up in jail, that dealing will have for them. It will give them all the money and riches and women but they don’t know that it must come to an end. It’ll either end up with death or in prison. So that’s why I wanted the parents to sit down and go over it with them.
EDWS: So your book is a warning to youth about the streets and a segway for parents to discuss these issues with their children?
Author Leonard: Yes, because youth are going to come in contact with drugs whether seeing it, smoking it, or selling it. I just want us to educate them on the consequences beforehand.
EDWS: Is there anything else you’d like to add?
Author Leonard: Yes. I want youth to understand that the benefits of drugs and street life Do Not outweigh the risks of living it. And that they shouldn’t take such risks.