ep. 24 - Andre Norman: Prisoner Turned Philanthropist


Andre had a rough upbringing with an abusive father. The destructive choices he made as an adolescent resulted in his arrest and imprisonment. In solitary confinement, a light turned on for Andre. He made the decision to change his fate. With a new mindset, he served a 14-year sentence, earned parole, and from that moment on Andre has never looked back.

Andre Norman's mission is simple: To motivate others to make a change. By sharing his life experiences, Andre s goal is to empower those with a desire to make a change. Andre guides you to create the steps for putting your life on the path you seek.


ep. 24 - Andre Norman: Prisoner Turned Philanthropist, & Founder of Project Footprints

Kyle Davis: I'll hit the record now.

Gail Davis: I have known and worked with Andre Norman for the past seven years. Andre had a rough upbringing with an abusive father. The destructive choices that he made as an adolescent resulted in his arrest [00:01:30] and imprisonment. In solitary confinement a light turned on for Andre and he made a decision to change his fate. With a new mindset, he served a 14-year sentence, earned parole, and from that moment on Andre has never looked back. It's an exciting, inspiring story and I'm thrilled to have Andre here to talk with us. Welcome, Andre.

Kyle Davis: Hey, Andre.

Andre Norman: Hey, how is it going? Thanks for having me.

Kyle Davis: It's good to have you. [00:02:00] We, I guess, intentionally left that intro pretty wide open so that people could hear your voice and hear you tell your story, but for the listeners out there who don't know you or haven't heard about you, go ahead and let them know about your upbringing and what it is and how you found yourself in prison, and we can go from there.

Andre Norman: The reason I went to prison was I can tell you I had a horrible father. I can tell you kids threw rocks at me and called [00:02:30] me names. I can tell you there was a single mom, six kids living in the house. You've seen this movie. This movie has been shown a thousand times on TV. They give out Oscars for it now. That crippled family that overcomes that one child and he can't read, "Oh my God, now look at him." I was a kid who couldn't read. I was a kid who wasn't popular.

I was a kid who was an introvert and didn't like others and just distanced myself and I drifted. The squeaky wheel gets the [00:03:00] grease and I wasn't a squeaky wheel. I felt as though since my dad didn't love me that I was not lovable so I was not looking for people to love me or to look out for me. I just kept waiting on him, but waiting on my father who never showed up, I found myself not going to school, not participating, not engaging, and just getting in anything and everything until I eventually find myself in the street as a gang member which took me to prison.

Kyle Davis: [00:03:30] I know this story and I know my mom does as well, but what was it that got you arrested and put into prison so people have understanding-

Andre Norman: What got me arrested was I was a young man with no employable skills so that means I picked up a gun, and I used to rob drug dealers. I would find drug dealers in the suburbs. I would go to their houses. I would kick in the door. I would tie them up. I would take their drugs. I would take their money and I would go. [00:04:00] It sounded easy. Robbing drug dealers doesn't seem like a bad thing until they write down exactly what is. It is called armed home invasion.

Think about somebody coming into your house, kicking in your door, and taking your valuables. That would be kind of terrifying, and in the state of Massachusetts it's not really smiled on to kick over doors and tie up people.

Gail Davis: Andre, I've always found it interesting that you don't drink or use drugs and never have. Isn't that accurate?

Andre Norman: [00:04:30] I've watched siblings and loved ones exposed and taken over the top by drugs. My entire community has been ravaged by drugs. It wasn't me. I live in my mind. Being my only self, by myself all the time, I lived in my mind, so the few times I tried drinking or smoking pot it made me slow down and messed with my thinking which scared me because all I had was my thinking. [00:05:00] Anything that distorted my thinking scared me. I wouldn't go near it.

Kyle Davis: My mom is nodding her head, but we have a family friend who just does not do that because he's all about his mind and he needs to be sharp 100% of the time. When you got picked up for armed home invasion of drug dealers you went to prison. I remember you telling me the story of what happened to you when you were there. I believe, I remember correctly, you were only originally supposed to do like a seven-year [00:05:30] stint, if I remember correctly or something like that.

Andre Norman: I originally got arrested for armed robbery and I should have got a three to five year sentence is what I should have gotten. I should have got three to five years, done 18 months and go home, but when I was arrested and I was on trial, I looked at my father and I said, "Dad, I don't want to go back in that courtroom. They're going to send me to prison." My father gave me the best advice or the worst advice he's ever given. He told me, "Run. Kennedy's that way."

I jumped in my car and I drove back to the hood and [00:06:00] I opened a crack house. Since I'm on the run now, in my mind, whenever they catch me I'm going to prison so I can commit any crime I want so I picked up like six more cases: armed robbery, armed home invasion, possession of guns. I got tried and convicted for those. Then while I was inside, I got tried and convicted for two attempted murders and then the worst part of everything, the very first case that I ran from I won on appeal.

I would have done seven to eight months [00:06:30] and gone home instead of fourteen years.

Gail Davis: Unbelievable.

Kyle Davis: I know that people are like, "Oh my God. Attempted murder." Because I know this story-

Andre Norman:

[crosstalk 00:06:41]

Even the people I robbed in the street were drug dealers. I didn't rob innocent citizens.

Kyle Davis: Right.

Andre Norman: And the people that I tried to kill were other gang members while in prison. I wasn't just shooting, you know-

Kyle Davis: I know that. That was the question. That was what I was coming to [00:07:00] because people listening, if they don't know your background or your story, they're like, "Oh my God. This is crazy." If I remember correctly, it was like your first or second night in prison and something happened to you and you were like, "That ain't happening to me."

Andre Norman: Yeah. When I was in Louisburg, Pennsylvania. It was in my first couple nights. I went into Massachusetts. I was a young guy. I was really energetic. I fought a whole lot and I got in a lot of trouble. After ten months, the state of Massachusetts deemed me "violent and incorrigible." They picked up the phone. They called the federal government, their big brothers, [00:07:30] and they shipped me. It was like a prison exchange. They sent me out and they got three in exchange.

When I got to the federal prison called Louisburg, my first night a guy got forceably raped. My second night, somebody got forceably raped. My third, I mean every single night and all day. That's what they did was rape people. It scared me. I don't care what anybody says. It scared the hell out of me. It made me be really, really introspective of what causes people to get raped.

I asked one of the guys. I says, [00:08:00] "What this is about?" He said they picked him because he was weak. I said how did they know he was weak. He projected weakness. I asked what that meant and they explained it and I went about every day of my life for the next 10,000 seconds pulling out anything that would perceive me as weak because I didn't want to be raped. It goes from perceived weakness to [inaudible 00:08:22]. You learn or you suffer.

Gail Davis: We've all seen [00:08:30] the movies. We've seen the TV shows and I know you and I talked about this but the gang system is alive and well in prison and there's a structure. I believe you rose to the top. You were the top guy.

Andre Norman: I wasn't the top guy. I started out at the bottom, number 10,000. Literally, it was the bottom. I rose to number three. I was third ranking gang member in the state of Massachusetts and when I had the opportunity to become number one [00:09:00] is when I had my epiphany. I decided I had a opportunity. I was in the situation. I was already in segregation for stabbing eight people. That put me to three. Now I'm about to stab seven more which would have put me to one, but before I did it I had my epiphany and I walked away from it.

Gail Davis: Okay.

Kyle Davis: What was the epiphany? As we finish each other's sentences.

Andre Norman: The epiphany was God spoke to me, told me it was a life choice. I didn't believe. I didn't go to church. [00:09:30] I actually didn't like church people for a variety of reasons and he told me "life choice." We argued about him not ever being there in my opinion. Him not being there, making my dad show up, helping my sisters through their problems, or anything else. I argued with them and I was mad. I was like, "I'm not one of your people. I'm the boss. I'm about to be the boss. Leave me alone."

But in the end, God wins the argument. If anybody tells [00:10:00] you to argue with God, that's not a problem. He won the argument. That's the problem.

Gail Davis: Andre, I've heard you speak about "God's messengers," and I want you to share the story, but I believe it was two nuns and a rabbi. What role did they play in helping you see the light?

Andre Norman: When I decided to change my life and listen to and let God with the argument, now I had to practically do something. God didn't come down and swoop me out of prison. I still had like a whole bunch [00:10:30] of prison time to do and I was still a reckless gang member. I went back to school first. A little old white lady came down and taught me my GED program.

She helped me get my GED. Then when I got out of segregation, I started going to counseling. I went to regular mental health counseling because I had psyche mental health issues as they were called. Then there was a guy on my unit, big kind of goofy white dude; he was semi-retarded. The kids were picking on him. I hate bullies. I used to be really short, so I really hate bullies. I made them leave him alone and the guy's name was Bob. [00:11:00] He said, "Hey, thanks Dre."

Like I said, he was mildly retarded, but he'd just walk around and say "Hi" to people. He would say "Hi" to me all the time and I ain't too cool to say "Hi" to somebody even though I'm a boss. He's a slightly retarded guy. So what? He says "Hi." I say "Hi." One day we're in the program building. I walk by. I see Bob sitting in the room. I said, "Let me go back and say 'Hi' to Bob." I went in to say "Hi" to Bob and he was sitting with another gentlemen. He introduced me.

I asked, "What are you all doing?" He said, "We're studying." I said, [00:11:30] "Can I study with you?" He said, "Sure." I came down. I started studying with them and lo and behold. I didn't notice the tefillin or the yarmulke. They didn't know what none of that stuff was to notice it. I thought it was just his clothes. He was an orthodox Jewish rabbi and I started studying with them every week.

It wasn't about me becoming Jewish or him becoming black. It was about him being a teacher and me being the student. I tested him because I test people because I don't people are real in the beginning [00:12:00] but he taught me some basic fundamentals: respect, accountability, sacrifice, humility, forgiveness. He taught me how to be human in a sense. I had never been taught to be human. I was taught to be an attack person. I was taught to be a psychopath. I was taught to be emotionless.

He taught me how to be human and that's my number one guy on the planet. Then fast forward 14 months, I was invited to a program called [/cri-sil/ 00:12:27]. It's a Catholic church retreat. [00:12:30] They do it in the free world and they do it at the prison. I did the Catholic retreat, got hugged a hundred times, but when the retreat was over, June 12th, 1999 I put my knee to the floor and said, "Jesus is Lord." That was Father Martin from Saint Basil's [/mi-thorn/ 00:12:46] who walked me through the "sinner's prayer" and when I came out of that weekend, I was like, now I had direction.

I had purpose and I had direction. [inaudible 00:12:56] were the closest thing to the priest who didn't stay so I started going [00:13:00] to Catholic services every Monday, going to Mass. The nuns just took me in and they taught me again not so much the biblical catechism. They taught me how to be human and how to respond and that I was okay. I had-

Gail Davis: I also remember you telling me that when the nuns would visit you they would say, "I'll be back next week," and they actually showed up, and that was one of the first times in your life that you could count on people when they said, "I'll be back." And they actually [00:13:30] came back.

Andre Norman: I come from a world where people don't come back for a variety of reasons. One, the don't care. B, they got killed. Three, they're strung out on drugs. It's just a variety of reasons; they just don't come back. It's not a foreign thing to me that people don't come back. So for these people, the nuns, the rabbi, the counselors to show up consistently to help me despite who I was. I had a long history of being a violent, crazed criminal. They didn't hold that against [00:14:00] me. They said, "We're not going to hold you in your yesterday. We're going to believe who you say you are today."

Gail Davis: Uh. I love that. I love that. So Dre, after people helped you, tell people what you did when you first got out. I love this part of the story. You get out of prison. What's the first thing you did?

Andre Norman: I became a speaker by accident. I should have taught the kids in prison. [inaudible 00:14:25] scared straight. The kids from the program, when they heard I was going home, they said, [00:14:30] "Hey Andre. We heard you're getting out. We're happy for you, but everybody who's been in this program on the prison side, when they get out, they never come see us. Will you come see us?" I said, "Sure."

I left the prison when my day came. I went from the prison to the parole office, the parole office to the youth center. I gave my first 90 minutes after I got out of jail to those young men. I'm here. I care. When you first get out, you've got a ton of free time. It is usually bad free time because you don't know what to do with yourself [00:15:00] so for me, I would go to the juvenile center everyday almost and spend three or four hours with these kids. It helped me fashion my presentation. I went in the first day and I told them my gangster story and they clapped.

I came back the second day. They didn't want to hear the gangster story. They said, "We heard that yesterday. Give us something new." I had to give them something new everyday. They made me reach out beyond just my story. If you've ever heard me speak, I can give you 20 presentations in a row, none of them the same.

Gail Davis: Exactly.

Andre Norman: Because those [00:15:30] kids made me be able to talk about things other than myself.

Gail Davis: I remember when I was first checking you out. I called a secretary to the bishop in Boston or some reference you gave me, and I remember the man told me, "The great thing about Andre is he will adapt to the audience so if he's got a room full of hard, tough prisoners, his language, his stories, everything's going to be adapted for that audience, [00:16:00] but if you put him over here in the church, he can adapt for that audience." I've witnessed it firsthand.

One of the places where I've witnessed it is all the work that you and I have done together with YPO, the Young Presidents Organization, and for people who aren't aware of that organization, it's a group of very successful individuals who run their own companies, a lot of success. They've always been drawn to Andre and his story. I think [00:16:30] one of the messages that's really resonated is when you talk to them, Andre, about absentee fathers and the role that your absentee father played in your life but then how you kind of turn it to how they might be an absentee father. Do you want to pick up on that?

Andre Norman: YPO companies generate like seven trillion dollars collectively. I mean they employ like 15 million people. That's a lot of hard work [00:17:00] and a lot of hours. To be CEO of multi-million dollar agency is not easy and it takes a lot of time, sacrifice, and energy. A lot of that sacrifice is time with your family. You're a 12-year-old kid and your dad's at work. You're 13. He's at work. 14, he's at work. He's on trips around the world. You have global. You have this. These are not small companies. These are tens of millions of dollars sized companies.

Dad is at work 20, 30, [00:17:30] 40 hours a day and you miss out. He misses birthdays. You get Christmas cards from his secretary. The whole nine yards. I tell them, "Yeah, my father wasn't there by choice. You're not there when you see them by proxy." Not being there is not being there. It's tough being 15 without a dad regardless if he's at work, in jail, or on the street. 15 is 15. It doesn't matter how much your parents make. They want to see their parents in person.

I told them, "Don't jump over your own kids to [00:18:00] go save the world because it'll come back on you."

Gail Davis: That is straight talk, pure Andre Norman style. I love it. I love it. It's awesome.

Kyle Davis: I see something like you were- Did you win or were you the 2015 YPO International Family Event of the Year?

Andre Norman: Since I started speaking in YPO and I had the most fabulous agent in the world-

Kyle Davis: That's Gail Davis.

Andre Norman: Gail Davis, the one and only. I can honestly say and we can do a check on this. I [00:18:30] would dare to say, and I'm not being arrogant, I am the highest rated speaker in YPO history. I believe I have gotten more 10s and 9.9s than anybody else.

Gail Davis: And one of the reasons-

Andre Norman: I know five countries I've got-

Gail Davis: I think one of the things that is unheard of is your commitment to give back to the community when you're there. If Andre gets hired, not only to speak for YPO, but if he gets hired to speak for the Greater Jewish Federation of a community, he will always say, [00:19:00] "Book me up. If that means going to the Boys and Girls club, Girls, Inc., the Juvenile Detention Center, The Maximum Security Prison-"

Kyle Davis: You name it.

Gail Davis: "The church, the private school, the synagogue." I don't know if you're still doing it Andre, but I've seen you where I'm just dragging. I've got to go home and get my beauty rest and you're still going. I've seen you do 10:00 meetings at night with someone you met that day that wants your advice. That [00:19:30] would help the rating.

Andre Norman: Whether this is my first or second, I'm not counting, but when I was given this chance, it wasn't to sit home and watch TV. I'm not overly concerned. I'm glad we won the Superbowl. I'm a known Patriots fan, home down in Boston, but that was not why I was let out, to go cheer for Tom Brady. I got out of prison and given these mentors and this opportunity [inaudible 00:19:54] and I met a YPO-er by chance on a flight back from Philly to Boston [00:20:00] and we started talking.

I said I was making no money. I was just going out and volunteering and just scratching to get by, but I was doing the work. He said, "I'm going to show you a network of people who care and can help you make more money so you can take care of your family and help more people." He said, "They are all over the world. Your ministry and your work will touch everybody."

We talked about a system. I didn't think rich white folks needed to talk to me, or rich business people. We said, "No, they do. [inaudible 00:20:28] They're [00:20:30] looking for ways to give back and they need a vehicle." The concept we came up with was, I'm an outreach worker. Every speech would be tagged on with four, five, six days of outreach because at the amounts they pay, I'm covered. I'm not in it for the check. I'm in it for the chance to help people.

Me doing six days in a given city, I'm not losing money. I'm gaining momentum on what I'm trying to get done in my life.

Gail Davis: [00:21:00] I know that you have a very close affiliation with the YPO chapter in St. Louis and I love your involvement in the documentary, Saving St. Louis, and I'm going to paraphrase here and correct me if I'm wrong, but as I understand it, some of the business leaders in St. Louis realized that gang problems become business problems. If you're recruiting the best CFO in the United [00:21:30] States to move his family to St. Louis to take a key position in your company and his wife gets on the internet and sees that there's this huge gang problem, maybe it's harder to attract the person.

They decided to really head on, all these business leaders, to tackle the gang problem in St. Louis and they brought you in, Andre, to help them with that effort. Do I have that right and can you tell us a little bit more about it?

Andre Norman: What happened is they booked me for the YPO speech, the [00:22:00] one day. "This guy looks good on paper. Let's bring him in for the one day. He'll give us an hour. We'll clap. We'll have a couple drinks. We'll go home days early." We started doing outreach on the ground. We're in the homeless shelters. We're in the schools. We're in the jails. Most, if not all, of my speeches are in high schools, public schools, prison centers, detention centers because I want them to see the other side of town and to see what their impact is having on people.

On the ground, one [00:22:30] of the families, the Spence family said, "Andre. We think you're wonderful but can you actually help? You've given great talks but can you actually put some action to that?" We worked out a plan and I actually moved in with them. They moved me in the house with the family. We were eating dinner together. I was cooking. They were cooking. I was driving the kids to school. I actually, for ten months- First of all, I lived in St. Louis and worked 20 hours a day.

Gail Davis: That's awesome.

Andre Norman: We built [00:23:00] a school. We built some relationships. We helped start some new ones. We made a difference. Like I said, that's family. Louis just came back from St. Louis because two of the girls are graduating. I fly in for that. "Hey Dre, they're graduating." "I'm on a plane." Those are my little sisters now.

Gail Davis: I know. It's funny. You talk about staying at Dave and Susie Spence's home. As you were describing what you were like when you were like when you were in prison I was sitting here thinking, "Andre has spent the night at my mother's house. [00:23:30] People hearing this would not even believe that."

Kyle Davis: And Andre told me that I need to get better at Spades if I'm ever going to go to prison. You said I was bad at Spades.

Gail Davis: Despite the background, which can sound very intimidating, Andre is the warmest, most lovable guy. I was reminding of that.

Kyle Davis: I think another thing to also talk about, if I remember correctly, is that you also did a lot of outreach work and did some work on the prison [00:24:00] reform system and everything else I think under President Bush if I remember correctly. Right?

Andre Norman: I've given two Ted Talks on prison reform. I've given tons of lectures. I've designed programs. We took YPO-ers in Honduras. We went to Honduras to just do gang outreach because Honduras was the most violent country in the world and the YPO-ers there wanted to make a difference. They reached out to Gail and Gail said, "Hey I got the guy for you." We didn't charge them anything.

Gail Davis: Unbelievable.

Andre Norman: [inaudible 00:24:30] six trillion dollars. We didn't charge YPO Honduras anything. Room and board and flight and we went there and we did the best we could to make a difference. It's not always like, "Oh checks." No, it's not about that. It's about we want to make a difference. We'll never let anything stop that.

Kyle Davis: Yep.

Gail Davis: Andre, I think it would be interesting at this point to take a shift. I don't even remember when this was, about a year and [00:25:00] a half ago. You can help me on my timeline.

Andre Norman: That's August 2015.

Gail Davis: Okay. Everything's going along. Andre and I are working together. I'm booking him for gigs. Most dependable guy you've ever seen, always shows up on time. I never hardly even think about him. I don't even hardly stay in touch with him that frequently because we have a dependable routine-

Andre Norman: Hello?

Kyle Davis: We can hear you.

Gail Davis: We're still here. Can you hear us Andre?

Kyle Davis: We got you.

Gail Davis: Can you still hear us?

Kyle Davis: Hold [00:25:30] on one second.

Gail Davis: Hold on.

Kyle Davis: Technical difficulties.

Gail Davis: Technical difficulties.

Andre Norman: I'm back.

Gail Davis: We're good.

Kyle Davis: We're good now.

Gail Davis: One night, I had Andre to speak in Arizona and I was getting ready to go to bed and you know how we all do. I checked that email for the last time and I had this very random, cryptic message that I'm not even sure how it got through the spam filter from someone saying, "Andre [00:26:00] will not be able to speak at the YPO event in Arizona." I thought-

Andre Norman: He must be dead.

Gail Davis: Honestly, I thought that and I immediately responded back to the person and said, "Who are you? How do I talk to Andre?" I called your home number. I called your cell number. I emailed you. Nothing. I just remember about 24 hours of complete agony of I thought- Well, that was the worst thought, but I thought, "He has to be so sick that [00:26:30] he wouldn't call me. What in the world is going on?" Just so everyone knows, I was introduced to Andre through a fantastic person named Liz Murray, homeless to Harvard, another amazing story.

Andre Norman: Liz was my first mentor.

Gail Davis: Yes, and I was able to get in touch with Liz and just as fate would have it, she happened to be near Arizona and she did the gig. Meanwhile I'm like, "Where's Andre?" Andre, share with people what happened and why you did not show up for that speech.

Kyle Davis: [00:27:00] That's crazy.

Andre Norman: Locked up abroad, gone wild. No, I was on vacation. I had my family with me. I had my nephew and I had their friends and with us on vacation. Then I had another buddy come in and went there. One guy gets crazy. He gets upset and he starts doing drugs. I don't play with drugs. I don't break a smoke. We put him out. He gets frustrated. He turns into a mess. He runs to the police station and tells them some lies so the police come and he [00:27:30] promised them some money to get his luggage out of my house as if I was denying him his luggage.

The police come the next day and it's like, "Okay. Rich Americans. Oh these guys are rich. He has two big trucks out front and they're rich," so they arrest us for nothing and they just make up some charges and we go to the jail. We stay for eight day. We stayed in the office. They didn't put us in the jail cell and they're begging us for money every day. $100 here, $500 here, $1000 there. "You got to pay for this lawyer, that lawyer."

[00:28:00] After eight days, they let us out. "We're going to continue this for six months and then we'll have a hearing and we'll throw it out then." I said, "Okay. Who cares about six months?" It's no big deal. I kind of halfway lived there anyways so we're just hanging out. We're chilling. When I needed to travel, I would go to the court house and say, "I got to go to work. This is where I'm going." They would give my passport and some travel documents and I would go to the airport and fly out.

I did it three times. I'd go to the court house, go [00:28:30] to the [inaudible 00:28:30] office. They give me my passport. They give me the travel documents. I'd fly out. Then, they just kept begging for money. Then, one day they said, "Hey, give me $50,000 and we'll close the case." I said, "I'm not giving you nothing and I have no problem going to court because there is no case." Then the next time I got my travel documents from the court room, they jumped out of the bushes with M16s like "You're under arrest." "What are you talking about?"

They said, "You got fake travel documents." I said, "I got them from the court house." They said, "Doesn't matter." [00:29:00] The lady from the court house, they just sent her home on suspension and they locked me up for having false travel documents, put me in jail, and they took my credit cards. They took all the stuff.

I'm like, "Wait a minute. They're about to go to my bank, withdraw all my money, and then come back in and kill me."

Gail Davis: Oh, Andre.

Andre Norman: Through the window, I started speaking my best Spanish. I convinced the police officer to go to my house and get my nephew. He came down because they thought I had left. They dropped me at the airport and they took off. They thought I'm gone. [00:29:30] They thought I'm on the way to Phoenix. Then he calls my family. We make the calls, get a lawyer. Then we go to court in two days. Again, this is stupid. I'm arrested for having false documents that I got from the court house. We go to court. I said, "It's the same judge."

I said, "Lady you have given me travel documents. You know me. I leave. I come back." They gave me three and a half months in jail, no bail. I was just sitting calm because I'm thinking, "This is stupid. [00:30:00] This is nothing. I've never been locked up in a foreign country." When they said three months, no bail, I said, "This is a problem. This is a problem."

At that point, I said, "Well, who can I call that could help me?" And I thought of my YPO friends, so I started calling my YPO friends saying, "Hey. I'm here in this foreign country and I need some help." When I first [inaudible 00:30:22] people, they're thinking it's like a scam to get people to send you money. I'm like, "No. This is not a scam. I'm not asking for [00:30:30] money. I'm asking for help." True to form, the first member that found me and brought me to YPO, Dave Sullivan, jumped on a plane and he flew to the Dominican.

David Spence jumped on the phone, called the ambassador. Keith Alba. I can go down the list of every person I have ever came in contact with in YPO. 99.99% of them came to my aid from Philadelphia to Cleveland. Definitely St. Louis to Houston to Dallas to [00:31:00] San Antonio, my homie Brock, across the world to New Jersey. They came in from Sweden. They were coming in from all over saying, "I'm almost about to cry. That's my guy." I had never had people stand up for me like that. I thought I was just a resource.

I was somebody who came and spoke for them and that's how I saw myself and they said, "No, that's not how we see you. We see you as family."

Gail Davis: That's awesome.

Andre Norman: They came to my aid and they got me a lawyer. They got my bail money together and the [00:31:30] DA- It was all about just stealing money, but it took three and a half months [inaudible 00:31:35] and the world behind me to get out of this crooked jail. They were just there for me 100%. I'm in a maximum security prison on a nothing charge.

First I thought they wanted to kill me a couple times and it didn't happen so I'm sitting in jail. I said, "Well what am I going to do?" What I did was YPO was, people were sending me money to eat and stuff. I used [00:32:00] some of that money and I built a lecture hall and I started doing lectures in the prison. I started teaching them domestic violence programs, re-entry programs, [inaudible 00:32:11] programs. I started teaching.

"This is where God puts me. This is where I teach from." Or sitting at the wall, crying, "Woe is me." I took everybody I could and taught them everything that I knew and that's how I spent my three and a half months: running classes and teaching. [00:32:30] At the end of three and a half months they let me out. They didn't want to. They had to. [inaudible 00:32:38].

When I finally got back to the States, I've already visited St. Louis, hugged everybody. I went all the way down to San Antonio, just came back from the Bahamas. Everybody who stood up and it was a list of them. You know what I'm saying? I'm on a "I love everybody tour," and it was the scariest-

The thing is, [00:33:00] my takeaway because [inaudible 00:33:02] went [inaudible 00:33:02]. I said, "In the situation where I might die and never get to see my son again, I did the same thing I did when I was free. I taught people." I had one of the guys tell me. He said, "Yo. It was our people who locked you up. It was our people who was doing this to you. Why are you helping us? We're the same ethnicity as them." I said, "But you're not them. [inaudible 00:33:28]

Kyle Davis: Well, [00:33:30] I think this is a good point for us to- Hold on one second. We're getting some feedback. Hold on a second. Anyways, I think this is a good point for us to end because there's so much for us here and we could keep going and going and going.

Gail Davis: We may have to have Andre back another time.

Kyle Davis: Yeah, we may have to have Andre back another time. Andre is now back state-side and can do speeches for everybody.

Gail Davis: [00:34:00] That's right.

Kyle Davis: For those interested and you would like to book Andre and have him come to your event and help your city out and help him pay it forward to get him in front and do all the work that he can to teach, please do so by getting in contact with GDA Speakers and you can do that by calling (214) 420-1999 or visiting GDASpeakers.Com. If you want to read today's transcript, you can do so by going to GDAPodcast.Com. So thanks Andre.

Gail Davis: Thanks Andre. I'm glad you're home and I'm glad you're still sharing the word.

Andre Norman: Love ya!

Gail Davis: Love you! Bye.

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ep. 24 - Andre Norman: Prisoner Turned Philanthropist, & Founder of Project Footprints by GDA Podcast is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License.