“My Turn” by Donovan Blount

After I graduated from high school in 2007, I decided I wasn’t going to attend college. I felt that college was for people who didn’t know what they wanted to do. I knew what I wanted to do. I wanted to become a hip hop superstar. In the predominantly African American community I grew up in, nearly every kid had dreams of becoming either a hip hop artist or a professional athlete. It was seen as the only way out of the hood. So immediately after graduation I immersed myself in hip hop culture. Everything that rappers talked about, I did. I figured, if I wanted to be the best, I would have to emulate the best.

When I turned 19 years, I ended up conceiving a child with a girl I was dating. My first reaction was fear. How was I going to take care of my child? Where would I scrape up the money? My son was born, and we named him Brody. Having a child was an amazing feeling, but hanging out and spending more time in the studio than with him prevented me from really realizing what it meant to be a father. I was constantly out at nightclubs rather than with my son. I told myself that I was out getting exposure and networking, when in reality I was simply having fun and partying. That’s the life that major hip hop artists promote, and I believed that it would bring me closer to their success.

One afternoon, while I was home with my son, a friend stopped by. We went out to the backyard and talked while my son played on the swing set. My friend pulled out a marijuana joint and lit it. We took turns passing it back and forth, and as we were talking about whatever foolishness had transpired the night before, I heard my son’s voice. “My turn,” he said playfully.

I looked over at him and saw his hand stretched out, motioning for me to pass the drug to him. At that moment, my world shook. I realized that everything I did, my son would study, and then he’d say to himself, “My turn.”. I thought about the things I did with my life and decided that Brody doesn’t deserve this. He is innocent. He could become anything in this world. He could become president. He could become a doctor or an astronaut. Then something interesting happened. I realized that I too could become anything, if it meant showing him his own potential. He inspired me, to inspire him.

I decided I didn’t want to be a rapper anymore. With a new perception of myself and the role I play in the world, I decided I would become a remarkable individual to whom my son could look up with pride. I started by enrolling in community college, and I secured a management position at Fed Ex. I was making a decent salary and I was in college, but I needed to do more. I needed to be more. So I quit my job at Fed Ex and joined the US Navy. While in the Navy, I achieved the unthinkable — I was promoted to E5 after only a year-and-a-half, and I knew I was onto something when most recently I received my acceptance letter to UC Berkeley.

“My turn” was the sentence that changed my life. My son gave me purpose. My son gave me a mission. I don’t do things for myself anymore. Every day when I wake up, I am on a mission to set the bar high for my son. In doing so, I have begun to realize that I am not only a role model for him, but a role model for all. I didn’t understand how impactful I could be in other people’s lives until I began to improve my own life. People started reaching out to me, sending me messages on social media, expressing the inspiration they had received from witnessing my journey. This has fueled me to reach higher and further. I hope that everything I do will inspire my son to reach for the stars and also show other minority kids from the hood that hip hop and sports aren’t the only paths to success.

Donovan Blount has served 2 years and continues to serve as an Electrician’s Mate 2nd Class for the United Sates Navy Reserve. He drills in Seal Beach as a part of Coastal Riverine Squadron 11, a maritime security force. He is a Southern California native and the father of a seven- year-old son. Donovan is currently pursuing his undergraduate degree in English at the University of California, Berkeley and upon graduation he plans to attend USC’s Gould School of Law.