In the 1980s, Rayful Edmond III and his cocaine organization flooded Washington, DC with powder and crack rock to the tune of $2 million per week. Edmond reportedly imported 1,700 pounds of coke every month from California and employed around 150 people. The city also experienced a high volume of violent crimes stemming from the drug activity. One of the major players under Edmond was Tony Lewis, Sr.. Lewis was arrested the same day as Edmond and both are serving life sentences without the possibility of parole. Lewis’ name still rings in the streets of DC because he did it so big, his son, Tony Lewis, Jr., is associating it with more uplifting endeavors, these days, working with the youth of the city.
Though the feds did what they had to do, the families of these guys were also punished. Tony Lewis, Sr.’s family was no different. They had trouble adjusting to their new resource-deficient life, as they quickly were whisked off of the lap of luxury. Little Tony was only eight-years-old when his father was locked up, and described the transition as “riches to rags. He told the Elite Daily:
DC was a tough place to grow up. We had so much going on with people being addicted to drugs and people getting killed. We had this community in disarray.
My friends’ moms were addicted to drugs. My friends’ dads weren’t there, they were dead or in prison like mine.
Teenagers became the heads of the household, and this had a real dire effect on the men and women of my generation. You had people having babies at 14 or 15 years old, young men dying and going to prison at 14 or 15 years old. This is what happened in my neighborhood.
As he struggled to find his way at the age of 12, Lewis delved into the streets, joining the 1st and O crew. However, he was able to persevere and attended the University of the District of Columbia, where he learned the value of education. At the age of 20, Lewis got a job as a youth outreach leader, an experience he says changed him profoundly. “I saw the effect that I had on young people, and I couldn’t bring them a message I wasn’t living out myself,” he said.
Since, Lewis has changed his tune and dedicated his life to community service. Being the son of a convict, he started Sons of Life, a nonprofit geared towards young people with incarcerated parents. He also helps ex-offenders find employment with the Court Services and Offender Supervision Agency. “I look at my work as activism. My goal is that if we’re able to get more people returning from prison positively engaged in the community, there won’t even be a need for Sons of Life,” he said. “No program, no school system, can be as strong as it needs to be without strong parental support. We need parents to raise their children.”
You can read Tony Lewis, Jr.’s complete profile, here.