27 Summers: Ronald Olivier x UrbanFaith

27 Summers: Ronald Olivier x UrbanFaith

UrbanFaith Editor Allen Reynolds sat down with prison chaplain and author Ronald Olivier to talk about his story of going from a life of poverty and violence to facing a life sentence in prison to being saved and freed by the power of Jesus Christ in his amazing book 27 Summers. The full interview is above, below are excerpts edited for clarity and length.

Allen

I am excited today to have with me an author, a chaplain, a man of God who has an incredible story and an incredible journey to share. And that is Mr. Ronald Olivier sharing to tell about [his] book: 27 Summers. One of the things people don’t realize is how long the justice system can take. Can you talk a little bit about the trouble of getting used to living a life that is violent or that is trouble? And really, I’m trying to get to how the idea of living a sinful lifestyle can feel so normal that we don’t realize that sooner or later it’s gonna catch up [to us].

Ronnie

Yeah, I think one of the tricks is what the enemy uses is that belief that you will never get caught. Yeah, [they] got caught, but not you. You too slick, you too sharp. He just lets us see all that we can accumulate, all this stuff, the money, the fame that comes with it. But never let us see the end of it. And most of my friends never made it out of their teens. Murder was all around me and I really thought that was my fate. I felt that’s how I supposed to go. I thought this was a way of life. You do what you do, live as long as you can live and die. And I always thought I would die before I was 21. I never thought I’d make it out my teens.

You just become accustomed to it. It’s like I heard a story about boiling a frog. You never just put them in hot water. You put them in temperate water and let the temperature increase and he’ll stay there and boil. But if you just drop them in hot water they get out.

So that’s how sin is. You know, it progresses, and you can’t figure out how to get out. I really felt like that was my fate and I couldn’t get out. Now I can look back and see all the escape routes that God was trying to get me out on. But the enemy had been blinding my mind so much to make me think that there was no way out and that’s one of the greatest lies of the enemy. Man, you’re stuck there. You never get out. This is the way life is supposed to be. No, that’s a lie.

 

Allen

Yeah, and I think that’s so seductive. I want to take you to that moment which I think was God moment where you realized that you weren’t going to get the death penalty but instead, were going to get life in prison. Can you talk about just what it was like literally to be placed between death and life and to find out you got life?

Ronnie

Yes, so I’m on trial for first degree murder facing the death penalty. And up until that point, everything was fun and games to me. It wasn’t real. I thought I was getting out. I didn’t feel the weight of it until I placed in the holding tank about 12 AM, 1 AM in the morning while the jury was deliberating. I can still hear the iron door slam and the key turn. And I could still hear the guards footsteps fading off until I couldn’t hear him no more. And I’m there alone in a box. And man, the weight of that was going on came crushing down on me. I was like, whoa, there’s 12 people that don’t know anything about me that are making the decision on whether I live or die. I was like, wow. And at that moment I was like, man, I don’t wanna die. I believe God used my mother’s voice. I heard her saying this so clearly to me. It was so loud in my spirit to where she said, son, if you ever in trouble that I can’t get you out, you should call on Jesus. And at that moment, I got on my knees. I’m crying and I called out to Jesus, and I had a very simple prayer. I made a deal with God. A lot of people say you don’t make deals with God. I made a deal with Him. And I said, Lord, if you don’t let them kill me, I promise you, I’ll serve you the rest of my life. And for the first time in my life, I had experienced and felt the peace of God. There was a peace that came. I didn’t know what it was then, but I just had this inward resolve that I was gonna be okay. It was this calmness that came over me. And so the jury came back with a guilty verdict of the lesser offense. That carried a mandatory life sentence without benefits of parole or probation. In layman’s terms, you die in prison. You never get out. But I like to put it like this in that holding tank, I received two life sentences. You know, the state was giving me a life sentence with no benefits. But God was giving me a life sentence with so many benefits that he encouraged me in His word to not forget them. So there it is, man. I get this life sentence and I’m headed to penitentiary. Not just jail, but penitentiary, which is a big difference.

Allen

A lot of times we think that, you know, we give our lives to Christ and then they just get better all of a sudden. I love that your story is not a story of an instant change. Why is that important?

Ronnie

I think that’s very important because I know it helped me to be patient with other young believers because you could be you could be very judgmental if you’re not careful and say, oh, they’re not born again. They’re not. But, when you think about it, just like in the natural, when a baby comes out of the womb, the baby looks like what it came out of. And so that baby, you know, that baby don’t come out looking like the little [girl or boy they will be when they’re big.] The baby looks like a little prune with all type of afterbirth on.  They have to go through a process to be clean, to be fed, to be to be changed. And the baby is totally dependent on someone else. And so that’s what the discipleship comes in, you know, and even though I knew I was born again, I look like what I came out. I still was doing some of the same things. But I continued to go to church.  A lot of people [put] pressure on guys, you’re going to church, you’re still doing all that. As if you’re supposed to be perfect when you go to church. But and not realizing that the church is, it’s man, it’s a spiritual hospital. People go there because they’re sick. We’re all getting some type of treatment. If you break your arm, you don’t wait till it get well, then go to the hospital. That’s absurd, you know, I’m going to get some treatment because I’m broken because I have all these issues because, you know, I’m messed up and I’m wrapped up in sin. That’s why I’m going to church. And man, we need to have people with that understanding when guys get to church to help them to disciple, to love on them, to get them where they need to be. And that’s what guys did for me, man. They discipled me. They didn’t judge me. They kept pushing me in the right direction, kept praying for me, you know, and kept being there for me. And man, that’s so important and helping young believers because they look like they’re not nothing really changed. But something did happen in their hearts, and it takes a process. And that was going on the inside coming on outside where you can see it and enjoy.

Allen

What advice would you give to young adults now who may be feeling hopeless or may feel like there’s not any way out of their situations? Because I think your story really speaks to that.

Ronnie

One thing I would say is to have hope. Man, you got you embrace the hope of glory, which is Jesus Christ. There is absolutely no hope without him. And so I would encourage you to develop that relationship. I’m not talking about religion. I’m not talking about just going to church. I’m talking about having a real personal relationship. Spending time with him, you develop your ear to hear his voice, to distinguish his voice from any other voice and allow him to lead and direct you. I was in prison. God said, look, don’t go that way. Go over here. And something would happen over there. You know, I get drugged up or killed and all this other thing. And he was he was leading and protecting me in the midst of chaos. He would do the same thing for you. But he’s not a respecter of person, but he is a respecter of faith. He just looking for someone to believe Him at His word. And I promise you God can do exceedingly, abundantly, above all you ask or think, but it’s going to be according to the power that’s working in you. You got to let him work in you. And so I just encourage you with that.

Share The Dream: Chris Broussard on MLK’s Dream

Share The Dream: Chris Broussard on MLK’s Dream

Save & Exit

August 2023 is the 60th anniversary of the Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.’s “I Have A Dream” speech and the historic March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom.  UMI (Urban Ministries Inc.) has partnered with Harper Christian Resources, and the K.I.N.G. Movement to honor, celebrate, and share the lessons of MLK through the Share the Dream Project and curriculum. UrbanFaith sat down with the award winning journalist and Fox Sports commentator, K.I.N.G. Movement President, and co-host of Share The Dream Chris Broussard to talk about the project and MLK’s legacy 60 years after the “I Have A Dream” speech. The full interview is above, excerpts are below edited for length and clarity. 

—–

Chris Broussard co-host of Share the Dream

 

Allen

We are talking about something so special, which is the 60th anniversary of the Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.’s “I Have a Dream” speech. It has inspired us and inspire others to honor and celebrate the legacy through a project called “Shared the Dream.” And so today I am here with the commentator, the journalist, the host, the co-host for this project, Mr. Chris Broussard, who has just been someone who’s been at the forefront of helping push the dream forward.

 

Chris

It’s great to join you, Allen. And wow, thank you for that introduction. I’ll try to live up to it in this interview, but it’s great to be with you guys at UrbanFaith. And this Share the Dream project is something that’s special, something that’s anointed, and something that we do hope and believe can have a great impact in our country.

Allen

In a lot of ways it feels like we see Dr. King as a meme, right? Like it’s just a picture on social media with a quote taken out of context. People don’t even know for the I have a dream speech, that he starts with laying out the problems before he gets to a vision for what we could do together. Can you talk a little bit about what it looks like to have a vision going forward and why it’s so important to learn from our history and address those realities before we rush to the vision that God might have for us being united and being one?

Chris

No, that’s a great question. Because a lot of times you hear talk about racial reconciliation. And to some people, like I said, does that mean a hug? Does that mean, you know, just some superficial gatherings, but not addressing the issues that left us unreconciled and leave us unreconciled? As you said, most people don’t even know that Dr. King addressed those issues before he said, “I have a dream” and all that stuff. And of course, later in his life, he really to some degree was distraught and disheartened when he really looked at the economic differences. And obviously he knew that [before]. But, in the South the racism was so overt that they were addressing those situations. Blacks couldn’t go here; blacks couldn’t go there. You just address those issues. And then we went up to the North and you saw the economic conditions that many Africans Americans were living in. In the North there [wasn’t persistent] legal segregation, but blacks were clearly getting the short end of the stick. It really disheartened him, and he had to rethink and was in the process of even thinking like, “Okay, how are we going to address this?” And he did have ideas and he talked about redistribution of wealth and all that stuff.

I think the key is that, our white brothers and sisters, particularly in the church, have been miseducated on the history of America. All the talk about a great Christian nation, and manifest destiny and the city on the hill. What about the way African-Americans and Native Americans were treated? And so that miseducation informs the way a lot of whites view the racial situation today. And by using a lot of Dr. King’s principles and teaching, like we want to hopefully shed light on how the true racial history of America, as bad as it was, in the past, but also how it impacts us today. How it impacts the disparities you see today and the tension and the distrust that you see today and all the events that we’ve seen in the past few years. All of that is a remnant to some degree of much of the past. The wealth gap. That’s not just because whites have worked hard, and blacks haven’t. It’s not because of that at all. It is because of things like the federal housing administration loans that were given out to mainly overwhelmingly white Americans in the from the 1930s on into the 1960s that built these beautiful white suburbs. The red lining of the African-American neighborhoods that have cost African-American families on average hundreds of thousands of dollars. These are the things [that must be addressed]. It’s not just let’s go have dinner together and be friends. It is let’s address these economic issues that really were created by the racism of the past and address the those. And then [there can] be some real racial unity and we can have some real robust discussions about how we can solve these problems that we have today. So yeah, I think that’s, you know, part of what we’re trying to do with Share the Dream.

Allen

[In this curriculum] you outline the six principles of Dr. King’s legacy beautifully: Conscience, justice, perseverance, hope, freedom, and love.] What principles have you seen stand out in your own life or be most influential to you or what were your favorite ones to share in the series?

Chris

Yeah man, there’s so many. I think to some degree I’ve addressed a little bit of the conscience of really making America in particular, many of our white Christian brothers and sisters aware of the true history of this country. I’ve talked to whites who have talked about city on the hill and the great Christian heritage of America, who have talked about slavery as if it was just a little blind spot. It was just a little mistake. I’m like “No, you understand that the reason America was able to become the greatest superpower we’ve ever seen was on the backs of slavery.” So that is a part of it trying to just awaken that consciousness within white Americans to understand. So, I think that’s the conscience. I could focus more on justice as well. Yes, we see overt acts [of racism] here and there. But a lot of it is subtle. If you if you don’t have a deeper understanding of it and really dig beneath the surface, you can get the wrong idea of the racial situation in America today. [Racist policies] created the wealth gap and all of that, that’s a part of the justice we need to look at. I’ll quickly just throw out one more, the perseverance. Like a lot of time, I think a lot of people have been beaten down, particularly African Americans by the situation in America today, by the persistence of the oppression. Where they have given up, where they just decided, nothing can improve for us overall or for me individually. It can affect your decision making and things like that. Whereas you look back in the day when Dr. King was marching and even before that, in the face of even worse oppression, you did have, I would say, you probably had more perseverance and hope within the Black community than you do today. And I believe a lot of that was because Dr. King and many of the people that were working with him were rooted in Jesus Christ. And when you’re rooted in Christ, no matter how bad things look on the outside, you will have hope. As bad as things look in this country, I do have hope because of the gospel and the transformative power of the gospel and how it can change a person and a people’s outlook on life, worldview, and decision-making behavior, all of that. And I think that’s what our ancestors had. And that’s what gave them the perseverance and the hope through slavery, through Jim Crow.  We have more opportunities and freedom today, but many of us lack the same perseverance and hope that our ancestors had. So that’s something I would wanna highlight as well. Why did they have that hope? Let me tap into that reason behind their perseverance.

Allen

Yeah, I mean, they were so rooted in their faith. And I really appreciate this series pointing that out, highlighting that, bringing that to the forefront, because a lot of times people forget that Dr. King was a minister, right? Like he wasn’t just some great speaker and marcher, he was a minister. You got to work with his friend Andrew Young who was there. What are some of the lessons that you feel like people take away from being able to hear from some elders and from some other folks who are part of the project in the video series in the curriculum?

Chris

Well, I think that’s a great question. I think Ambassador Young, he obviously gets accolades and people understand and talk about what he did in the past and his involvement in the movement and all of that. But I don’t think people understand and fully give him the credit for just being how great of a man he is. And to your point, a man of faith. People want to divorce the faith of Dr. King from what he did. They want to divorce [him from his faith]. I could go on and on Frederick Douglass, Harriet Tubman, even Marcus Garvey who [was] a Christian. People want to divorce or [history from faith]. They want to look at these great actions of our ancestors and yet and not look at the sources of their power and the source of their wisdom and the things that they fought for and fought against and stated and so on and so forth. And Ambassador Young is also like that. Ambassador Young is a great man of faith. And I get that we should focus on the other things he talks about and the things he fights for. And everything’s not a religious conversation. But I think it is important that people understand, especially in this day and age, where faith is being marginalized. Christian faith has sustained us as a community and as a people and is now being marginalized, tossed aside, watered down and things like that. It’s important to see in a great man like Ambassador Young that his faith has always been vibrant and to this day is vibrant. And that that’s what motivated him and led him to be able to do and have the strength to do what he did.

 

Trolls Band Together Interview

Trolls Band Together Interview

The Trolls franchise is one of the most popular animated series in the world. It brings together recognizable music and fantastic animation to tell stories of joy and challenges in relating to one another. The new movie Trolls: Band Together explores the fun and frustrations of being part of a family. It was a fun, focused, fantastic edition to the Trolls saga that truly brings families together. UrbanFaith sat down with the Director of Trolls Walt Dohrn to talk about the new movie which is in theaters everywhere November 17. The full interview is above. A trailer for the movie is below.

Wrong Lanes Have Right Turns: An Interview with Michael Phillips

Wrong Lanes Have Right Turns: An Interview with Michael Phillips

Michael Phillips is the Chief Engagement Officer of the TD Jakes Foundation, a well respected pastor and education advocate. But his journey was not easy or simple. His book Wrong Lanes Have Right Turns details his journey, his context, and his perspective on one of the most important topics for us everyday: how to educate our children and dismantle the school to prison pipeline. He masterfully blends personal stories with scripture, statistics, history, and context to help us understand and impact the education system. Check out the full interview above!

You can get the book here