Crack-dealer-turned-filmmaker offers cautionary tale

Tue Jul 3, 2012 9:03am EDT
 
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By Eddie B. Allen Jr.

DETROIT (Reuters) - Convicted crack dealer DeWayne Wilkerson would be in prison until 2015 if not for changes in Michigan's controversial "mandatory minimum" laws. Instead he has made a film.

"The Greatest Gift 2.0," which Wilkerson began working on after his 2009 release, premiered last weekend at one of Detroit's largest churches and is booked for several other screenings in coming weeks.

It all started in 1996, when Wilkerson was a 26-year-old independent hip hop concert promoter who was moonlighting by peddling crack 30 miles south of Detroit in Monroe, Michigan.

One day in late June, he sold to one regular buyer three times in eight hours. The man turned out to be a police informant, and Wilkerson was later convicted and sentenced to five years for each transaction: 15 years "for a day's worth of work," he says.

As a small child in Memphis, he loved music. Wilkerson, who is black, did not let his complexion stop him from wanting "to be Elvis." The third of five children, he and his siblings moved throughout the Midwest with their mother after she and their father, a drug addict, split up. Eventually, Verastine Yancey got the struggling family to Monroe, and she took a job at a General Motors Cadillac plant in Detroit.

During the 1980s, when rock cocaine rocked his hometown along I-75, a frequent drug pipeline stretching from Florida to Michigan, dope money bought a teenage Wilkerson designer clothes and expensive sneakers.

But he often battled with his religious mother about the path he had chosen. He nearly missed his high school graduation after getting arrested on the eve of the ceremony.

Hip hop would reawaken his desire to work in music, but the drug scene competed for Wilkerson's attention. At 18, he was shot after sticking "a pistol in a dope fiend's mouth because he owed me some money," he said. At 23, his spleen was removed when he was shot again.   Continued...

 
Filmmaker DeWayne Wilkerson wears his 'I'm Possible' t-shirt as he leans against a graffiti painted building near downtown Detroit, Michigan June 27, 2012. Convicted crack dealer Wilkerson would be in prison until 2015 if not for changes in Michigan's controversial "mandatory minimum" laws. Instead he has made a film. "The Greatest Gift 2.0," which Wilkerson began working on after his 2009 release, premiered last weekend at one of Detroit's largest churches and is booked for several other screenings in coming weeks. REUTERS/Rebecca Cook