Dubbed the “hip hop Mayor” because of his taste in clothing, music, and extravagant parties, Kwame Kilpatrick held the audience captive, Oct. 19, as he recounted his journey from mayor of Detroit to inmate in the federal prison system.
Interviewed by the Rev. Dr. Jamal Bryant, pastor of Empowerment Temple, where the forum took place, Kilpatrick was the only speaker brought in to address the congregation for their month-long celebration of men of influence.
“Our church is 65 percent new converts and they don’t draw to big name preachers
with a 30-year-old testimony,” said Dr. Bryant, who says that his congregation can readily relate with Kilpatrick because he can “understand where they are.”
The first African-American male elected to serve as head of the House Democratic Caucus, Kilpatrick was elected mayor at 31, which also made him the youngest man to ever govern a major metropolitan area. However, in light of the many positive reforms the young mayor enacted during his tenure, an extra marital affair, coupled with the misappropriation of thousands of tax dollars, threatened to overshadow his many accomplishments.
Charged with a number of federal offenses including perjury and obstruction of justice, Kilpatrick maintains that his own actions led to his ousting.
“My character helped put me in a position where I was at their disposal,” said Kilpatrick, who did not shy away from questions about his past transgressions but also said he “refuses to feel condemned.”
Now that Kilpatrick has permanently bowed out of the political ring, he stresses to young and old alike the importance of developing a sense of integrity.
“At the same time you’re developing your avocation, simultaneously you have to tenaciously develop your character,” said Kilpatrick, who believes that there are still important social issues that need to be addressed in the country.
With the release of his first book, Surrendered! The Rise, Fall and Revelation of Kwame Kilpatrick, the author takes readers into defining moments of his life where he battled to salvage his marriage, his family, his career and his sanity.
With a Miami soiree completely planned for himself and 28 of his closest family members and friends, Kilpatrick took those who gathered and watched the streaming broadcast of his first night in prison, which also happened to be June 8, his 40th birthday. “I had the cement floor and four walls,” said Kilpatrick, “It was the most humbling experience in my life. For the first time I felt like I had completely failed.”
Capitalizing on an opportunity to educate and show others an example of creating great success from a great failure, Dr. Bryant said “I think all Christians love Paul but hate Saul but you can’t ever get to Paul until Saul goes to Damascus Road.”
Speaking on a number of issues, Kilpatrick has refocused and reenergized his efforts to making key changes in education as well as the prison system.
“The undoing of our community is now happening through the prison process,” said Kilpatrick, pointing to national statistics that show America operating with a revolving penitentiary door where over 60 percent of all released prisoners are rearrested within three years.
Since his release in early August, Kilpatrick has focused on spreading his message of encouragement and strength in hopes that readers and listeners will understand they can still rise even from the depths of depression and disappointment.