Saturday, March 28, 2009

T.I.’s Road to Redemption: A Success Story or the Same Old Story?

In many ways, it was a grey day in Atlanta. It was foggy and dark. People were visibly tired of the intermittent rain that stopped just enough to fool you into walking your dog.

It was also a grey day in Atlanta because one of its native sons, TI (a/k/a TIP a/k/a Clifford Harris, Jr.) was sentenced in federal court to a year and one day in jail. There was more to his sentence – a great deal more (DNA testing, forfeiture of property, a $100,000 fine, community service, drug testing, financial audits, three years probation, drug testing) - but that one year and one day is what had many of the folks on the street in Atlanta a little bit depressed. In addition to the Grady Memorial Ambulance blasting “Dead and Gone” (his cut with Justin Timberlake), I saw that the people most affected by the news of the sentence were black working class folks. Some were saying that a year and a day sentence for federal weapons charges is damn near nothing. Others were saying that any time in jail is too much time. Everyone I overheard talking about it seemed to feel this particular pain well. Whether it’s because they’ve been in the shoes of T.I.’s partner, Tameka Cottle, or his six children, or they know first hand what lies ahead for T.I. when he begins his 366 day journey into darkness - I can’t be sure. My guess is that being a working class black person in America, especially in the south, means you know a little something about jail.

There is an upside to all this. It seems as thought T.I. has remained the ‘stand up’ guy with the sweet smile and mischievous twinkle we have come to love. He seems to have sobered and blossomed over the year and a half since his bodyguard (turned informant) tried to sell him weapons in a Walgreens parking lot. He does not seem to be the same implosive/explosive young man accused or capable of assaulting a female security guard at a mall in Tampa. He seems to genuinely care about the community service activities he is forced to do by the court.

We will have to wait to see what happens once Atlanta’s native son hits the bricks next year sometime. Will he still have that smile and twinkle when he returns from jail hell? Will he return to the world as whole as one can be after prison and continue his good works not solely because the court told him he had to? Or .... I’m not even gonna speak it. Let’s just wait and watch and keep the brother in our hearts.

- Pamela D. Bridgewater

(Photo by Reuters)


  1. thanks for this post pam.

    it brings to mind "you ain't missin' nothin'" from t.i.'s paper trail record. in in, t.i. says:

    The time’ll do itself, all you gotta do is show up/ Keep layin’ down wakin’ up/ And thankin' the Lord/ And ‘fore you know it they gonna open the doors/ . . . . I know the times seem long/ Just try and keep strong/ Put on your headphones and rewind this song/ Remember you ain’t missin’ nothin’ homes/ I promise you ain’t missin’ nothin’ homes.

  2. I was impressed by T.I.'s willingness to accept responsibility for his actions as he awaited sentencing and completed his required community service.

    The question now is, as Pam alludes, whether T.I. will exude as much optimism and faith after being "reformed" by the system. If the answer is "yes", can he simultaneously maintain the hard edge that made him such an energizing force in hip-hop? If the answer is "no", will his recent transformation into a rock-the-vote, resist-the-violence role model begin to ring hollow to all those he has touched in recent months?

    Only time will tell. Here's hoping the King of the South returns to his throne soon.

  3. Before working in an academic setting, I only worked on civil litigation matters. As such, I am very unfamiliar with the criminal procedure and sentencing issues.

    Is required submission of a DNA sample the norm now?

  4. the dna testing surprised me too. I will have to ask my colleague Cynthia Jones, former director of Public Defender Service in DC, for some background. Cynthia has written alot about using DNA as evidence that helps people accused of crimes. I will be interested to hear what she says about this. stay tuned!


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