Corner 2 Corner Drug Dealers and Street Life Conference Celebrates 15 Years
A unique gathering in the Triad this week brings together an unusual group of participants: drug dealers and addicts. The Corner 2 Corner (C2C) conference in Winston-Salem provides hope, encouragement, and a sense of purpose to the city’s hidden figures.
C2C began as a way to reach out to drug dealers, and help them find ways to improve their lives. Over the years, enrollment has expanded to include prescription drugs addicts and their families. Fifteen years later, the program has become a national model being used in cities across the country including Houston, Texas, Shreveport, Louisiana, Columbus, Ohio, and Jacksonville, Florida.
The conference's founder is Union Baptist Church's senior pastor Bishop Sir Walter L. Mack, Jr. He says the goal of the three-day-long conference is to provide direction, resources, and a spark of hope that leads to further self-discovery.
"Corner 2 Corner means that we will go from corner to corner to make sure that people understand the importance that God has placed within them to live holistic lives and that we are not called to be destructive," says Mack. "We're not called to sell drugs or use drugs, but we are a called to a better purpose. It's been remarkable. Lives have been changed."
He spoke with WFDD’s David Ford.
On how Corner2Corner began:
It started 15 years ago when I was in the congregation. On one given Sunday, we had a powerful worship service. After worship I left the church, and right in back of the church I saw a young man doing a drug exchange right across street from the church property. And so, it occurred to me that it's interesting that we have all of these people in the sanctuary that know how to pray, that want to see some positive things happen in their life and the community’s life, but we could not reach this young man on the corner. And so, we came back and we had a meeting about what can we do to better our community in terms of making sure the opportunities are shared and that people understand the importance of living a good life within the community. We put together a conference called The Corner 2 Corner Drug Dealers and Street Life Conference.
On the goals of C2C:
We want to inspire hope in the people because we believe that if we can just give you some hope, then that gives you the spark to figure the rest of it out... A lot of people are addicted to substances because they don't know their purpose. They don't know why they're here, so they’re just drifting from here to there, or trying different things because they don't know purpose. We focus in on helping you to understand what your purpose is. Once you identify your purpose what you end up finding is that now you can appreciate the various [counseling] agencies. Now you can appreciate the resources that are available to you. Now you can appreciate the support group, because I now know that God created me to be the head and not the tail, above and not beneath. You know, I'm not created to use drugs. I'm created to do something greater than this.
On how the conference works:
Many of our committee members are people who have indeed struggled with addiction or substance abuse themselves. And so, they see it as their way of holding themselves accountable, but also their wanting for others what God has done in their life. It's beautiful to me to see people acknowledge, “Hey, I used to be there. But this is the way I am now.” As a matter of fact, one of the workshops that we'll be doing this particular week is hearing testimonies of people who were sitting right where they are sitting this week, and now God has them in a different place with a good job, with a family. They are no longer doing illegal things. They're living holistic lives. And so that's the beauty of the program. We talk to them about transformation. We talk to them about their identity and guide. We talk to them about being concerned about what's happening politically, because what's happening politically affects them locally. Policies have been made about this particular community that many of them don't even know about. So, we try to expose that to them. We hold workshops about health, finances, how to go back and get your [General Equivalency Diploma]. We'll also be bringing in a judge to talk to them about their record, how to clean up your record, and voter I.D. laws. And some very meaningful things like relating to your children.
And then we have a graduation ceremony on Sunday, because we believe that if you sit in church for three days we ought to graduate to something. Many of the people that attend this program have never graduated from anything in their life. And so, if you just want to see something very moving, on Sunday they're going to come down the aisle in caps and gowns that the members of our church provided the resources to get caps and gowns so these people can come down. They bring their families, the children, the mothers who've been praying for them to make a change. This mother gets a chance to see their child come down in a cap and gown. We graduate them, and we charge them to take what they've learned and make a difference. Don't go back to where you came from.
Editor's Note: This transcript was lightly edited for clarity.