Once I reach the 18th floor, I get off the elevator and pass by a few apartments before arriving at my destination at the end of the hall. The front door is already cracked open, but I knock first, then hesitate for a few seconds before entering. A tall, handsome gentleman greets me at the door with a friendly smile and one of those warm, good-cologne-smelling hugs. I do a quick scan of his place, which actually looks pretty dope from what I can see so far. The foyer — or Hall of Grind, as he likes to call it — is ornamented with a collection of artwork and accolades that hang proudly across the walls. One of which is a framed Game Changer jersey he received during a Pistons’ game ceremony, in which he was recognized for being a commendable community leader. The main living area, where we would be hanging out for the evening, was decked out in a cool, modern décor, complete with a cozy accent rug, a huge flatscreen TV (which almost took up an entire wall), a theater-style black leather couch, and a small area with gym equipment for his daily workout routines. Oh, and not to mention the gorgeous view of Downtown Detroit from the large windows stamped around his living room — simply breathtaking.
I already know what most of y’all are thinking: Kori is ’bouta have a legit Netflix and Chill night with this man. Well I hate to break it to all you presumptuous, gutter-minded folk, but this was far from a cuffing season rendezvous. I was actually about to conduct my first-ever video interview with author, entrepreneur and community leader Shawn Blanchard, who is set to release his first book, How ‘Bout That for a Crack Baby: Keys to Mentorship and Success in April 2016 (pre-orders are on sale now). In this motivational memoir-of-sorts, Shawn shares his powerful testimony of being born with narcotics in his system, and being raised in an environment where drugs, crime and violence were prevalent. Through his personal story, he leverages principles of overcoming life obstacles and achieving success through faith and mentorship.
Shawn shared with me some of his major influences growing up, and how he had to make the conscious decision to take his life in a different direction:
My oldest brother was allegedly one of Detroit’s most notorious drug lords … So with that kind of stuff always around you, you just become an innovative dude. But you better get control of your universe, or you could end up real crazy.
Through the power of God, Shawn was not only able to beat the odds stacked against him, but he was also able to make a profound, positive impact in and beyond the Detroit community. He is co-founder of the Networkingout Foundation, an organization that hosts a grassroots movement called Run This Town, which is a series of collaborative workout sessions throughout the city of Detroit. Since its inception in May 2012, Run This Town has drawn hundreds of participants from around the Detroit Metropolitan Area. Shawn has also given motivational speeches to numerous audiences around the country about topics ranging from mentorship to the art of being a true gentleman, hence his signature hashtags #YourFavoriteMentor and #BeAGentleman. From teaching math in the South Bronx, NY, to recently serving as the director of youth services for the City of Detroit Mayor’s Office, Shawn has always had an unyielding passion to serve the youth and the greater community.
Smiling from ear to ear, Shawn told me about one of his mentees who, at one point, was an at-risk high school student from the Marcy Projects in Brooklyn. After years of taking heed to Shawn’s continuous words of encouragement and motivation, his mentee will be transferring to the University of Michigan (which is Shawn’s alma mater) in January, and he’s also working full-time for Google. Shawn said it’s things like this that give him the most gratification.
Honestly… (when people say), ‘Oh, you worked for the mayor’s office?!’ or ‘Oh, you do Run This Town?!’ That’s cool, but this is what’s real right here. This is the type of stuff that people won’t know about, but it’s what I live for.
During our interview, we touched on more of Shawn’s book, his passion for the youth, personal style, and the ideal qualities he looks for in a woman. Check out the video below:
I’m not even gon’ front — the interview was good (of course), but the conversation after we finished recording was like, way better lol. For about an hour or so after we wrapped up the interview, Shawn, my sister Erin (who was our director) and I sat around discussing everything from entrepreneurship, to goal setting, to definite must-reads, to making a good to-do list, to — ugh! Just everything, y’all. I’m actually lowkey mad we didn’t get all of it on camera. A little while into our convo, I wound up just hitting the recorder on my phone to catch some of the gems Shawn was dropping.
Then eventually the nosy chick in me wound up coming out to ask what I’m sure many women are dying to know: why bruh man is still single. And here’s what he had to say about that:
I’ve been fortunate to date some phenomenal women in my past. They have set a bar that makes me pretty picky. God has the perfect lady for me. I’m not in a rush. I’ll be busy impacting the world and building an empire for my future family in the meantime.
Welp, there’s that, ladies. So moving right along…
In case you haven’t noticed by now, Shawn is doing the doggone thang. Let me not forget to mention the fact that this man has four dry-erase boards hanging in one area of his apartment — FOUR — filled with daily schedules, yearly financial goals and business ventures (from concerts to speaking engagements to charity events). Needless to say, I took away a lot more from our exchange than just an interview — I received a wealth of knowledge, encouragement and great topics for some future blog posts lol.
One thing Shawn said that really stuck with me (thank God I recorded it) was, “You can do anything you wanna do within God’s gifts that He got for you.” Whew! Yes, chile! Through God’s power and gifts that He instills in each and every one of us, we are limitless. Once you find and carry out the purpose God has for your life, you are completely unstoppable — take Shawn’s word for it…oh, and cop his book too, while you’re at it.
Pre-order How ‘Bout That for a Crack Baby: Keys to Mentorship and Success here!