From drug dealer to businessman, this is how I made it out

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To: To kids in Northwest Philly,

From: Terquin Mott

Charity: The Boys and Girls Club of Philadelphia

Sponsor: The Unsealed will donate $25 dollars to The Boys and Girls Club of Philadelphia in honor of the first 25 shares of this story

To kids in Northwest Philly,

Nearly 25 years ago, my college teammates and I were in the gym playing basketball. My entire family walked through the door: my sisters, my brothers, my uncles and my aunts.

My coach said Terq, “You need to come here.”

I said, “I am working. Whatever it is, it can wait until I am done working.”

After practice, I stayed in the gym shooting and shooting, while my family waited and watched. I knew why they were there. I knew they wanted to tell me my mother was gone but until they actually said the words to me, in my mind, she was still alive. After an hour, I finally walked over and my uncle just grabbed me and hugged me.

That moment was a turning point in my life.

Like you all, I am from “the hood,” raised poor and didn’t feel much love. To be frank, I know the life of the streets.

Terquin was raised by a single mom, Wanda. She had four children.

My mother had four children. I was the oldest boy with two younger brothers and an older sister. My dad was not present.

As far back as I can remember, which is first grade, I was a problematic student. By age 13, I stopped going to school altogether and was selling drugs, which led to getting arrested. The courts adjudicated me to Glen Mills, which was a school for juvenile delinquents.

My bad behavior did not stop there and I frequently found myself in more trouble at Glen Mills. I didn’t care. But fortunately, there were adults at Glen Mills that saw that I was different. They saw an intelligent, skilled and talented young man. No matter what arena I was placed in, I excelled: school, vocations, athletics and even dentistry. It was at Glen Mills where I began to feel value, self-worth and potential.

By age 13 Terquin was selling drugs.

Nonetheless, my 14-year-old thought process was to stay at Glen Mills, learn as much as I can and get my GED, so I could be the smartest drug dealer on “the block” when I came home.

My coaches had other plans in mind. They too wanted me to be dominant on “the block” but the basketball block.

They told me, “Terq, there’s a lot more out there for you. You can go to college. You can play basketball. You can do whatever you want to do because you have it.”

By age 13, I stopped going to school altogether and was selling drugs, which led to getting arrested.

While my coaches saw potential in me beyond sports, basketball was what gave me hope at the time.

I started playing when I was 14 years old. By age 15, The University of Hartford expressed interest in offering me a scholarship.

During a home visit, I was excited to tell my mother about the possibility of playing ball in college, to which she replied, “You ain’t playing no damn basketball. You ain’t good enough.”

Basketball gave Terquin hope.

She was conditioned by her environment to think people like us don’t make it out. We don’t get opportunities. Most people in poverty-stricken areas are like that. They don’t believe that their child will be the next Barack Obama or the next astronaut or the first person to take Wi-Fi to Mars. My mom was no different.

So, I went to my room, balled the letter up and I threw it in the trash. I didn’t go back to school until my coach called.

He said, “I won’t ever tell you your mother’s wrong or she is a liar but I can tell you this… If you stick to what I say and believe in yourself, you are going to make a lot of money playing this game.”

I got on the bus at 15 years old and I never returned home again.

By my junior year, I had drawn interest from nearly every college in America. The feeling was phenomenal and short-lived. My mother became terminally ill with breast cancer and I decided I didn’t want to go far away. I settled on La Salle University. However, I struggled there, trying to take care of my family and even returning to the projects where I got involved in activities that could have derailed my success.

Terquin was at risk of losing his scholarship because there were drug distributors near the home where he grew up.

At one point, my college coach told me I would lose my scholarship if I got caught around any drug distribution areas. Sounds simple, right? It is simple until you factor in that the entire neighborhood was grounds for distribution and my family was heavily involved.

My uncle didn’t want me to lose my opportunities at school. So, he told me not to come home. He wanted me to live a life where I didn’t worry about who was coming after me. I started getting into other types of trouble trying to get money and I ended up being a headache to my coach. Ultimately, I transferred to Coppin State.

At Coppin State, I matured and managed to maintain a 4.0 GPA. After a dominant junior season where I was among the leaders in the country in points, rebounds and field goal percentage, I attracted the attention of NBA scouts. When I declared for the NBA draft, the Houston Rockets came to the projects in East Falls.

They told my mom, “We are going to draft your son at number 30 if he doesn’t withdraw from the draft and return to school.”

She just shook her head, “No” and kept repeating with the little strength she had, “Finish school. Finish school. Finish school.”

For her, a college degree was everything. I obliged and shortly after my mom passed away.

Terquin regularly returns to his old neighborhood to work with kids

The moment my mom died was such an important time in my life because that’s when I became the head of the family. I couldn’t mess up anymore. That was the time to get better. That was the time to get tougher. I had a daughter. I had younger brothers. Everyone was counting on me. If I didn’t make it happen people weren’t going to eat. I couldn’t go back to the streets and risk getting locked up or killed.

But my senior year, I got cocky and my entire play went down.

The NBA was no longer calling but I thought to myself, “I ain’t folding now.”

I signed a lucrative contract to play in Spain. My career overseas lasted 15 years and then I came back home and started my own business. I am also a father of five children.

I am not in the streets.

I am not selling drugs.

I am living a good and honest life.

And I want you to know you can too.

Go to the local community centers. Get involved because there are people there that can guide you. If someone is trying to help you along the way, even if they are a different race or background than you, give them a chance.

Terquin is now a businessman, who wants to help kids live honest and safe lives.

Build up your self-esteem. People sell drugs for possessions. Most of the children that are involved in drug sales want clothes, sneakers and jewelry. No one is selling drugs at 13,14,15 years of age to buy investment properties or start businesses. You sell drugs because you suffer from low self-esteem.

I want you to know you all have a million-dollar talent. You have to believe in yourself. It’s very possible to succeed here.

Don’t compare yourself to people around you. Compete with yourself every day to be a better person than you were yesterday.

I am telling you all of this because, in my life, success is no longer about the money I make or the house where I live. My success is walking up to the park and seeing one of you run up to me to show me all of the “A’s” on your report card. My success is seeing you do well.

Even so, right now there is still too much violence and too many drugs in our community. I know your lives aren’t easy. I know many of you are hurting. But when I was growing up, it was hard. When my mom died, it was painful. I made the choice to get off the corners and live a productive life and so can you. It’s a decision! You have to decide!

This is your time to find, explore and maximize your million-dollar talent. This is your time to get tougher. Just like how my family depended on me, right now I am depending on all of you.

I am counting on all of you to do so well in life that we create a place where we help each other instead of hurt each other. Let’s not just make it out of here. Let’s all come back home and together make this community a whole lot better.

I am proud of where I am from and I am even more proud of where we are all headed.

This is OUR turning point.

Greatness is within all of us,

Terquin Mott

Written With Lauren Brill

PS: If you like my story please make a contribution to The Unsealed. The Unsealed needs your support in order to continue to be able to tell stories that bring truth and awareness to communities and topics that are often ignored. Any amount would be appreciated.

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Nothing like maintaining a positive outlook! When i need to fight off despair i set goals. It is a great way to fight off negative thoughts and feeling!

Very interesting! Opinion at a later date!

Crazy that this still goes on. I fear for my safety almost all the time. Black or brown males are subject to arrest and violent behavior. I just read a article where a former New York cops claims they had to arrest more people of color to get a promotion. This is sick and I'm tired of living in fear. People are going to start fighting back.

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I think me and your grandpa would have been friends. I been a type 1 diabetic since three years old. I would have said the same thing waking up and seeing two nurses. Do I get to choose. I'm pretty sure I've done that before.

I have learned over my Fifty-Eight years of life, and more specifically over the last 10 that FDR's words about fearing only fear itself ring true; to me, they do, anyway. And, at the same time, how the words of the 23rd Psalm comfort me and my abundant faith in G-d allows me to fear only fear, knowing full well that He is always with me. Growing up in a Non-Orthodox, yet Observant Jewish family nicely brings both together and not only makes me feel more protected but commands me to believe so. You see, I have lived a different kind of life, as we all have to some degree, but mine changes daily. Not that I am ANY BETTER than anyone else, in fact, probably less so... I stray from my stories often. I shouldn't, but since my Stroke in 2012, I have somehow developed some sort of ADD, so please bear with me, the end will justify the means and I will *try* to stick with my story; for you, my readers. I moved my family of the ex-wife and four children Cross-Country in 2002 to be closer to my dad who was turning 75 that year, and while I could not afford both financially as well as mentally to move back to Southern California (where he and my mother lived), I chose the Midbar (Hebrew for Desert) of Arizona. Within just a few short weeks of moving here, I woke up one day with some of the most severe abdominal pain I had ever experienced. I found a local doctor and made an appointment to see him that day. I arrived at the appointment and was ushered into an examination room by their PA (Physician's Assistant), who is supposed to be the same as a Doctor, but not really (?). I was examined and Prescriptions for a Pain Medication and an Antibiotic. They continued to treat me in a like manner for almost six months when I ended up in an Emergency Room, where a CT Scan was performed and Colonoscopy was scheduled. I was then diagnosed with a grapefruit-sized obstruction and abscess in my colon that would require surgical intervention. Surgery was scheduled for two days later, on a Friday in Mid-March 2003. I arrived at the hospital at the designated time, 5:45 am; was admitted to the hospital; told them about ALL my allergies (including a BIG ONE, an allergy to a particular anesthetic agent), and taken to a room where I was put into one of those awful gowns and told that they'd be "right back" to take me to surgery. They promptly came back at 10:30 in the morning and took me to yet another room... to wait some more. At 11:45 the Anesthesiologist came in to talk with me. He informed me that he was going to use Propofol for my induction and that he was planning on using the EXACT ANESTHESIA TO WHICH I AM ALLERGIC to maintain me through surgery! "NOT ON ME, YOU'RE NOT", I exclaimed! "I'M ALLERGIC!!!" On my wrist sat a red band that clearly said ALLERGIES: CEVOFLURAINE. I then proceeded to give him a list of anesthetic agents that I knew to be safe. He tapped me on the knee and said: Okay, Smart guy, put yourself to sleep and quickly left the room. I awoke from the anesthesia on the following Wednesday evening. In addition to the NINE small incisions from various attempts to perform the procedure of removing 18" of my diseased colon through a scope, I also had one 6" cut in my belly that began around my navel and continued to just above my groin. I also began experiencing severe shortness of breath. The staples were ripped out of my skin by the Butcher Surgeon two weeks later, but my breathing difficulties continued. After being examined by one doctor after another, I finally decided to be examined by The Mayo Clinic. Over a ten-day to 2 week period, I was examined by multiple physicians, underwent numerous tests and procedures and was finally ready for my Report Appointment. I would learn the results of all of the tests and procedures and hopefully have a clear diagnosis and prognosis. The verdict had come in. Diagnosis: Terminal COPD (Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease Causation: Bacterial Pneumonia due to Malignant Hyperthermia caused by induction of Detrimental Anesthesia Prognosis: 5% chance of Five-Year Survival I then took my report to a highly regarded Pulmonologist for Follow-Up Care, but not before enrolling in Rabbinical School in New York City. I had, (since age ten) always wanted to be a Rabbi. It was now or never. On the advice of the Pulmonologist, I began taking Prednisone (a Steroid) that would open up my Bronchioles and make it easier to breathe. The normal dosage for a man who is 5'9" and weighs 150 pounds (before I got sick, I weighed 174 pounds, all muscle, by the way) is <100mg per day. My STARTING dose was 100mg THREE TIMES a DAY. the dosage was increased every few months for the following THREE YEARS, when, on Sunday, September 9, 2007, at the weight of 340 Pounds (the Steroids had been increased to 250mg Four Times a day), I collapsed and at Mayo Hospital, was intubated where my organs began failing. Two nights later, on the First Night of Rosh haShana, the Jewish New Year, and while being mechanically ventilated, I went into Full Blown Total System Failure, and suffered a Cardiac Arrest for 14 minutes, followed by a Coma of several weeks duration. During my Coma, I felt as if I was in a box. The box had four dirt walls and smelled like the Morning Dew. In the upper right corner of the box sat a red square with a white X inside of it. "If only I could click on that X, I might stop this program", I thought to myself, but I could not move; I could not stand; could not reach, and could not scream for help. I lay in this place crying out in fear for what seemed like days and weeks and months. Suddenly, my cries were replaced by Psalms. I was reciting Psalms, some of which I had never even read before! And the Psalms turned into Prayers; The Kol Nidre, chanted at the beginning of our Day of Atonement, Yom Kippur; every other prayer recited on this Holy of all Holy Days; the Prayers for the Sukkot Holidays that follow the next week and the Readings for every single Torah Portion of the year. I somehow knew them all. By heart. Without hesitation of memory and obviously without any text to look at. I kept reading and chanting day and night; night and day and resting in between. Really resting. Sleeping... until one day, I opened up my eyes to see my beautiful son Zac sitting at my side on my bed. Covering the holes in my throat and on the side of my neck, I managed to spit out "C'était le rêve de dix minutes le plus étrange que j'aie jamais eu"! I told my son that was the weirdest ten-minute dream that I have ever had in FRENCH, my first language and native tongue. He then told me that it had been over two months, and I was in a Hospice Facility. The night before, I had begun to breathe on my own a minute or so after being disconnected from the machines that had sustained my organs since September. A few days later I was wheeled to an ambulance outside to be transported to the truly amazing HealthSouth Rehabilitation Hospital in Scottsdale. The sun kissed my face as I felt like I was pulled up into a body of love. It spoke. In Hebrew: Don't worry, it said. "You and I are going to be okay". I spent the next six weeks learning to do things like eating and holding a pencil; how to shower and dress. I learned how to return to life. Six weeks after leaving HealthSouth, my dad died. In July 2018, my mom joined him. I have had many trials and tribulations over these last twelve years. A Stroke in 2012 took my ability to project my voice loudly; I've been hospitalized many times and know how very precious time is. I do not live for today, rather, I live for tomorrow. I do everything I can do today to help others, and pray that I am again awakened tomorrow to do more good. And if so, great! And if not; if G-d decides to take me tonight, I will hang out with my parents and loved ones forever. I win either way. President Roosevelt was right to believe in only fearing fear. Psalm 23 is even more so, as Faith follows all of us.

Funny my mom passed in 1991 as a 13 year old it was hard but she was much more then beauty. She was a fighter from the beginning and I will never be able to explain her impact. It shows you came from a strong famiy and I'm glad you had both a mom and dad because a lot of people don't. I pray your truth can make a difference

This is trying to scare us with more misinformation then actual information but thank you for giving us your reality. I like it a lot.and people just wash your hand like you should be doing anyway 😂

Great discussion, as well as some interesting numbers which I'm not sure are meant to calm us, or install even more fear. I have many of your same concerns. Just yesterday I scheduled a work trip to Miami for late next week, but am unsure if it will happen or not. And while i say or act like i'm not concerned, sub-consciously, i am quite sure it is weighing on my mind each time i cough, or sneeze, or feel "a little warm", or if someone around me does. One of the biggest fears i have is that with all of the media coverage and the additional testing becoming available, the numbers are sure to skyrocket, and this is going to really set some people off. Our country is going to go absolutely bonkers . We are all guilty of taking limited amounts of information and either talking about it like an expert, or completely overreacting. Here's hoping that the number stat to level out, and then drop. Lets hope that the American people can follow simple suggestions. Lets hope that countries from around the world can work together to come up with a viable plan to slow this train down. And last but not least, lets hope our politicians can come together to provide our country guidance as we all try to get through this. Lets hope they can forget about the presidential race for just a minute to remember what their job really is; to serve the American people. And now is their time to really step up and lead by example.

Lauren, like you I have to balance my fear and confusion. I work directly with the public and I have an immune system that is partially suppressed as a by product of treatment for Rheumatoid Arthritis. I fear for my Father the most as his body is much weaker than even mine. I visited the Cleveland Museum of Art on Sunday just to learn three people were positively diagnosed on Monday in Cuyahoga county. You aren't alone in that fear. I think that we must turn to hope to keep us in this trying time. We have to...

Terry, As a man who has lived and breathed baseball, your letter was an absolute joy for me to read. What young boy wouldn't want to be in the clubhouse with his Dad? During your time as manager I've been to quite a few games in Cleveland. None though were as special as July 12th 2014. That was the day I celebrated my 30th birthday. Though the day centered around my birthday it saw me doing something for someone else. It was the day I took my Father to the very first professional sports game in his 59 years of life at the time. It was so touching the certificate that he got from the wonderful folks at Guest Services. And although the home team lost to the White Sox that day, it will always remain one of the best days in my heart. Letters like yours only serve to renew my love for the game of baseball. Thanks for sharing it with the little boy still inside of me wanting to throw that 0-2 curveball to the best hitter in the league.

[…] enough, in the email was your letter to your late father, former NBA basketball star Anthony Mason, talking about your struggles after his death. You wrote […]

Sweet Lauren, I agree completely with the promise that Brian asked you to make. Frankly, it is the only way that I know to love; totally, completely, wholly and unconditionally. You deserve nothing less, nor does your future love.

Wow. What a truly moving and powerful story. We often take for granted the small gifts we give each other just by being present. I'm sad for the heartache. I'm glad you stayed and became. Who knows what little girl or boy will be attributing their life's purpose to some kindness you shared. Peace and Sunshine

You’re welcome Lauren looking forward to all the future stories :)

Thank you Tony. I appreciate all your support.

Thank you Tony. I appreciate all your support.

I’m sorry to hear about Brian but he was right you are too beautiful to not receive roses Lauren:)

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Thanks for this! So what movie set did you get on?

So nice Roger <3

Pat, Your letter touched me in a very profound way. It left me in tears in the middle of my work day. It made me want to share something with you. On a July morning in 2007 a police officer answered a 911 call I had made when my Mother went into cardiac arrest. Between that officer, my best friend and the fire fighters who showed up minutes later they were able to restart her heart, however at the hospital she passed away an hour later. At the end of his shift that officer stopped by my home to check on the situation and cried when I told him the unfortunate news I received only 4 hours prior. He tried to apologize to me. I looked at the anguish in his eyes and asked him directly what for? He described the ways he felt sorry. What I want to leave you with was my reply to him. I told him he had nothing to be sorry for because he answered the call in what was the darkest moment in my life. I told him that he was a hero regardless because it takes a special person to answer calls like that. You are a hero to people Pat. No one can ever take that away from you. I understand the process you're going through as I've been there myself and like you I still struggle with it when no one is looking. You aren't alone in this. I hope your healing process continues on and you can regain the happiness in this beautiful life. You'll always be a hero to those people, because you were there when the call came Best wishes Roger Chamberlain

Ruth, your letter moved me to tears. Once upon a time I was very closed off about the LGBT community but over a course of several years, I turned my fear into understanding and I actively stand with the community for their equal rights because it is the right thing to do.