By Danielle Miller
Sitting at a small table in the back of the library, Sterling Daniels hardly looks like the stereotypical criminal types. Waiting for his older lap-top to load so that he can show the progress of his next book, it is hard to see the history of drugs and prison on his 62-year-old bright and excited face.
“I want to give back to the community I took from,” Daniels said regarding why he published his first book, “Raised in The Game.”
Daniel’s was actually raised in Chicago where he was born on June 11, 1954 to a single mother. He was the fourth child out of six, and lived in hard times. This meant that all the children had to help financially when they could. Daniels, on the other hand, considers himself raised in Milwaukee.
Daniels said Milwaukee was safer than Chicago was. It was where he learned how to hustle and where he saw glimpses of black wealth on pimps and dealers. Daniel’s said that those glimpses of Cadillac’s and fancy suits stayed with his 14-year-old self and led him ultimately to shut the pages of his school book and head out on the street.
Daniels role models started to change during the Civil Rights Movements during the 60’s. The messages behind Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. and Malcom X inspired change throughout the communities. They were leaders for the people to help stop the spread of racism that plagued the North and South.
“They be throwing stones, then hiding their hands behind their back,” Daniel’s mother said about racism in the North while Jim Crow laws and the KKK patrolled the South. When Daniels worked at a Milwaukee Railroad, he said that, although Blacks and Whites had separate locker-rooms, the kids would still get along and talk, play sports, and hang out.
“The kids weren’t racist, the older generation was,” Daniels said about his experience. “Racism is taught to kids.” Daniels also said that people like Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr also saw that in order to make a change, they needed both sides of blacks and whites to really unite and change things.
Daniels said “Raised in The Game” is important now because of the cause and effect many people face in their lives.
“[The youth] have the wrong mindset because the older generation was in prison,” Daniels said. “All the fathers were incarcerated and [the youth] had no role models.”
After 26 years behind bars for dealing drugs, Daniels wants to turn his influence to making a positive impact in the community he was away from for so long.
“When I was on the street, I had everything except happiness,” Daniels said.
While in prison, Daniels turned to God, and found a way to share his story so other young people don’t go down the same path he had taken. He hopes to take people down a more positive path and bring communities back together, not only for Milwaukee, but for other inner cities around the country.
“We are a product of our environment but we can’t give up and focus on the negatives.” Said Daniels. Instead, Daniels hopes to create new community programs and teach kids about family. Family, Daniels said, is what gave him hope and kept him strong during his incarceration.
“I’m happy to share my story,” Daniels said about his book, which is the first of a series of four, each detailing specific points in his life, “It’s time for people to know the truth. People don’t understand what happens in the inner cities.”
Daniels said he believes that understanding, would be the first step in finding a lasting solution for communities around the country. He has already teamed up with local churches and community organizations to help mentor young people and give them a role model to show them they can make it.