Gregory Baldwin is a man on a mission. He wants to save Black boys from a lifetime of oppression, low self-esteem and street violence. Baldwin also endeavors to keep sharing the story of how he turned his own life around after it hung in limbo.
Some 20 years ago, Baldwin, now 46, was shot 10 times in the same year on three separate occasions. He was also stabbed eight times and now wears a colonoscopy bag around the clock. “ I was shot seven times and one bullet lodged in my heart,” said Baldwin, who lives on disability benefits. “I also almost lost my right arm and stayed in the hospital for four months,” the single father of four sons continued. “I was on my death bed and I couldn’t talk. My mom talked about how they opened my heart up and massaged it and brought me back. I’d had a lot of anger in me and wanted to retaliate — but she stayed beside me and prayed over me.”
The native Washingtonian, who attended Spingarn High School before later enrolling in night classes to obtain his diploma, said he’s lucky to be alive to tell his story. He explained that while he was never in a gang, he was engaged in street violence over a two-year gun dispute that started in 1989 and spilled over into 1991. “It was pure nonsense that I should have just walked away from,” he said.
But the Ward 8 resident said it was a vision from God that prompted him in 2007 to start the non-profit Helping Hands community organization that speaks messages of hope and deliverance to youth.
The organization is largely supported by grants and charitable donations from the communities Helping Hands serves. The city has also kicked in with a one-time $30,000 grant, according to Baldwin, whose office is located in the basement of the United Black Fund on Martin Luther King Avenue in Southeast Washington.
Baldwin said his young charges are mesmerized by his story, often sitting spellbound as he shares with them the pitfalls of his life.
Having received numerous accolades for his work, Baldwin’s efforts were also recognized this summer in a letter from an officer with the Metropolitan Police Department.
Officer Sherri Hinton, who lauded a presentation Baldwin gave on crime and gang prevention at the Boys and Girls Club, said Baldwin’s direct and truthful approach with youth captivated them like none she’d ever seen. “They are still discussing your presentation, so I know they truly heard and understood what you told them,” Hinton wrote. “I feel your is a necessity and will help youth better understand the consequences of violence and gang affiliation.”
Spreading his message takes Baldwin into the city’s most troubled neighborhoods where he opens up his heart, he said, by giving back through services. They also include opportunities for free haircuts and hair styling for both boys and girls.
Baldwin also shared his enthusiasm over Helping Hands’ plans to provide a full-course Thanksgiving dinner to about 100 families in the Barry Farms community, adding that the organization wants to send the families home with Thanksgiving baskets as well.
According to United Black Fund President Barry Lenoir, every community should have a Gregory Baldwin. “We’ve worked with Greg for almost four years now, and he’s an extraordinary person with just a horrifying life experience that he’s turned into something very, very positive,” Lenoir said.
“He brings to kids, the message about the consequences of violence in our communities, and he’s engaged young people in situations where others could not get their attention.”