I grew up surrounded by the smartest and most talented kids in Chicago. It began in grammar school, but it really got good when I was accepted to the Academic Center program for gifted 7th & 8th grade students at Whitney M. Young Magnet High School. One of my classmates was Exavier Pope.
Exavier was special amongst my other classmates in the fact that we also rode the bus to school every day together along with one of my dearest and best friends (to this day) Dr. Brandi Kenner-Bell.
Everyone who rode my bus seemed to be the same in so many ways and Exavier was no exception. He and my other classmate Terrence were the pranksters and jokesters of the bus and we had a good time every day (at the sacrifice of many of our bus drivers). But, we were good kids for the most part – just precocious and too smart for our own good.
Whitney Young’s Academic Center was the premier public school program of its kind in the city. By the end of 7th & 8th grade we had completed the equivalent of our freshman year in high school. The competition was stiff, our teachers and administrators had high standards and we expected a lot from ourselves.
It is why when Brandi forwarded me the article on everything Exavier had been through and was going through during those years and then, during high school I was moved. First, I had NO IDEA until today that he had experienced such hardship. I am sure very few of our classmates did. Second, I am marveled at how he was able to do it. Whitney Young was not easy.
Exavier overcame an abusive home, homelessness and a lot of adult responsibility all the while keeping pace with all the little braniacs at Whitney Young. And, I don’t mean barely keeping up – Exavier was universally considered one of the brighter students amongst the extremely bright.
I read this article today and it couldn’t have been more perfect timing. The entire day has been filled with reminders that no matter what cards life deals you – you have the ability to make the best of it. The cards Exavier’s life dealt him at a young age predestined him to a life of violence, poverty, drugs and despair. But, the way Exavier ultimately played those cards changed his story. He is now a successful and sought out entertainment & sports attorney, TV commentator, social activist, motivational speaker, father, husband and still an all-around great guy.
The article is beyond worth reading so I won’t recount the whole story (in hopes that you take the time to read it). But, if you ever needed a bit of inspiration on how POSITIVE > NEGATIVE (Exavier’s mantra) then, you need to read the story of my friend Mr. Exavier Pope, Esq.
PLEASE READ THE FULL STORY HERE!
“Pope’s Blessing” by Jack Silverstein (Via the Chicago Law Bulletin)
(A little extra moment – I take responsibility (more than I should) for Exavier marrying his beautiful, intelligent and talented wife, Dana Todd Pope (an exceptional artist in her own right). Dana and I went to college together and she called for a personal reference when she met Exavier. I am so glad I gave her the thumbs up because they have a beautiful family and they are one of my favorite (and most supportive) couples.)