NEW YORK (FOX5NY) - A video shows Shanduke McPhatter as a young man in the Bloods gang waving a gun with his young sons in the same room. He was in and out of prison for 14 years with a long rap sheet, including burglary, armed robbery. and assault.
Today at 39, Shanduke, with his twin sons, now 17, by his side, is a changed man. Shanduke feels blessed to be alive with a mission to help others by lifting their minds and spirits.
Shanduke started a nonprofit organization in East Flatbush, Brooklyn, that is working with the Mayor's Office to Prevent Gun Violence. The organization is called Gangstas Making Astronomical Community Changes Inc., also known as G-MACC.
He chose the name because it is attention-grabbing and relatable. It draws in the youth he is trying to help by showing them there Is an alternative to gangs, guns, violence, and crime. He tells the youth that he has been through it all and knows that change is possible.
Like so many troubled teenagers and young men surrounded by crime, Shanduke says he never felt as though he had a future and there was no fear of going to prison. It was a rite of passage.
His turning point happened in a prison yard. He was standing next to his mentor, a hardened career criminal, as the man watched his own son enter prison. He said his mentor had tears in his eyes. He says that powerful moment changed his life.
Shanduke says at that point he knew he didn't want that fate for his own kids. He wanted his kids to be better than him.
Soon after, he created G-MACC. The organization provides conflict mediation between students in some of the city's public schools. The group also talks about overcoming the impulse to retaliate after someone has been shot, which just continues the cycle of violence.
G-MACC offers mental-health counseling and job options.
Social media, like Facebook, is also a catalyst for violence. So G-MACC closely monitors social media pages. If G-MACC sees something escalating on Facebook, it will try to reach out and mediate a resolution to the conflict before it makes it to the streets, Shanduke says.
The mayor's office credits Shanduke's organization, combined with the work of the NYPD and the religious community, with reducing gun violence in East Flatbush, which historically has been one of the worst areas of the city for gun violence.
Word is spreading about Shanduke's successful work. Members of a similar group from Baltimore recently visited to pick his brain about methods they can use to help in their city.
Eric Cumberbatch is the executive director of the Mayor's Office to Prevent Gun Violence. He calls Shanduke a "shepherd" with a credible message. He calls Shanduke passionate and dedicated.
When Shanduke visits the housing complex where he grew up in Boerum Hill, Brooklyn, he is welcomed with open arms and pride for turning his life around and helping others in East Flatbush and here.
Shanduke says he can't forget about where he came from because it was the catalyst of the violence for him.
Iziah McPhatter thanks his father for changing and showing him a better path. Elyjiah McPhatter says his dad helps everyone, not just his kids, and is proud of him.
That is why Shanduke is going above and beyond. He made the choice to live the rest of his life by reaching out to troubled teens and adults to reduce gun violence and save lives.