“The American Dream is free but the hustle is sold separately.”
Carmen Garner knew little about dreams early on in life, but a lot about hustle. The Washington DC teacher grew up in a way that is truly hard to imagine.
“My grandmother had 13 kids. 9 of the 13 kids were heavily into the street life and drugs.” Including his own mother.
Before Garner was 10 years old, he visited both his mother and father in prison, frequently witnessed drug deals and drug use, and bounced around from foster homes to various family members.
Garner says he realized by age 11, he was pretty much on his own. His mother later died of HIV.
“I am the product of decision making,” he says. “What I saw, I did not want to do those things.”
He went on to college, discovering his junior year that he had an incredible amount of artistic talent. Drawing, painting and writing poetry became a powerful outlet.
Garner, now 38, became a teacher, motivational coach, and author. He shares his remarkable life story — overcoming poverty, and a family culture of crime and drug addiction — in his book, “From This To That.” He is self published and works to raise money so that every school can have a copy. http://www.mrcarmengarner.com
Garner uses his life story to help the kids around him make change. He started a program for 8th grade boys called “Man Talk”.
After realizing the boys at the junior high where he was teaching were out of control, Garner gathered male teachers to meet once a month. They taught the boys how to “dress appropriately, talk appropriately, and respect women”. Garner says the man goal is instilling self respect (which he believes is the most important trait a person can possess).
One of Carmen Garner’s main messages is that we all have the power to make decisions in life. Be better, or be bitter, he says. He decided long ago bitterness would get him nowhere.
Since age 11, when he realized he was on his own, Carmen Garner has worked to be better.