I was born in Ivory Coast, originally known as Cote D’Ivoire which is in West Africa. I do not remember a lot about Africa to be honest. I was young, very young. The rebels were taking over the city and killing people. They killed one of my friends in front of my eyes. Luckily, they didn’t hit me but to this day it hurts me to think of my friend. I guess I was blessed.
My grandma came and picked me up and put me on her back. Me, her, my sister and I don’t remember who else escaped the violence by going to Monrovia, Liberia to start a new life. A few years later, me, my sister and my grandma arrived in the United States. We touched down in a place that was cold. I was freezing because it was snowing which was extremely different compared to Africa. My sister told me we were in Queens, New York. I went to preschool there and started living the American dream. I played in the snow, made snow angels and felt blessed.
After a few years, my family moved to Phoenix, Arizona to live with my uncle. My life in Arizona was wonderful but I grew up in a rough neighborhood. I watched “thugs” or “gangsters,” as people called them. They would drink, sell drugs, count money, drive fancy cars and have cute females with them. Everybody liked them, including me. I wanted to be like them but never knew I would be.
I wanted to focus on nothing but soccer. I joined SC Del Sol soccer team. I was trying to head to greatness. It was hard though for a kid to stay focused and witness another lifestyle of greatness. I started messing up. I went from playing for the state cup to “running the block.”
Money opens ways for you to have something and if you ain’t had nothing, money makes you something. I started making money and taking care of myself. With money I had power and I loved that feeling. The process of making that money changed me in other ways. Being young and dumb and having my friend by my side, I was willing to get money by any means necessary. I saw people I loved murdered, stabbed, beat up and raped. A new mindset developed: from “I’m just a young’un” to:
Do it like an OG money on my mind screamin’ screw the whole industry if anybody try to kill me I swear they going to die small thing to Giant I am Eli Nobody can tell me what or what not to do
I became a monster but was it necessary? I have asked myself that question again and again. Did I know better? Yes. But was it necessary? Yes. Being involved in the “street” lifestyle taught me how to deal with situations. Some people will never know these situations. Some situations may end your life. I learned the hard way not to give up and to keep fighting. I learned the hard way what I want in life by being locked up. I lost my freedom. I lost my family. I sometimes lose hope, but my life is just beginning. Maybe I’m blessed.