*The Emmy award winning and longest running judge on television, Judge Greg Mathis, chops it up exclusively with radio and TV personality Jazmyn Summers and shares his remarkable story. (WATCH above.)
Mathis says he was considered a thug when he was young, estranged from his father, ran with a Detroit street gang, was arrested numerous times and as a 17-year-old was imprisoned as an adult on a concealed weapons charge. After his mom was diagnosed with colon cancer, he was released from jail. He graduated law school, passed the bar and then was denied his law license because of his felony record. A brother with all those strikes against him wasn’t supposed to make it. But he did.
“I got to keep telling my story because so many brothers and single mothers need that same inspiration. I was able to overcome because I had been prepared as a child. My mother’s singular focus for her and her four boys in the toughest housing projects in Detroit was church and school. She worked midnights as a nurse’s aid and she worked days for a couple of hours cleaning homes. But she was always there when we got out of school. She made sure we did our homework and then she took a nap to get ready for the 10pm/overnight shift. When she came back in the morning, she made sure we were ready for school. And everything was surrounded by the church. If she couldn’t go she would have the deacons come and get us,” Mathis shares with Summers.
But it still wasn’t enough to keep him out of a gang, Mathis reveals to EURweb.com Spotlight:
“Look at the 6:00pm to 11:00 free time when your mother is sleep and after 11pm she was gone. That’s lot of free time. And the peer pressure was tough. You were either a predator or you got preyed on and I became a predator unfortunately. I was in and out of juvenile and then jailed as an adult. I was ordered by the judge to get a GED I only had an 11th grade education. I got into college on an affirmative action program which is why those programs are so important. What street youth could get out of prison and go to college nine months later? That was because of the political fight for racial equality and affirmative action.”
When he got out he became an an activist for social justice as head of NAACP, working for Jesse Jackson and later the mayor of Detroit. Finally he ran for judge but it took him three years and going to the state Supreme Court to get his license after they denied him for having a felony.
Mathis’ passion is helping young Black men and he started the Mathis community center, to help kids get off the street during those dangerous hours when he felt the free time allowed him to become a gang member.
“Transforming the lives of Black men is my primary focus and my passion,” Mathis declares. “If we strengthen them we can strengthen our community and we are such a target by corporate and American mainstream for economic injustice and mass incarceration.” And on police brutality he says, “We have to keep fighting we have seen this movie before when the KKK would be a Klansman at night and the sheriff during the day.”
Mathis is a strong believer in reparations. “The transatlantic slave trade is the biggest transfer of wealth in the history of mankind,” he points out. “They worked us 300 years for free to build the richest country in the world. if you had a business and never had to pay your workers, you would be the richest businessman in the world. We need some of that wealth transferred back and reparations is the way. Harvard economists came up with the sum of 13 trillion that should be given back.”
His most compelling case in the over 20 years he’s been on the TV bench, he says is the case of a young man.
“It’s the only case that got a little drip down my cheek,” he relayed to EURweb Spotlight. “Here’s a young man who overcame the street game. Both his parents died of HIV. He moved into his uncle’s house who was very strict. He had a curfew of 11pm but he came in at midnight one night. He was just 19 but his uncle threw all his clothes out and said ‘he aint nuthin to me’. He needed to be mentored. I shed a tear because he reminded me of me. I was lucky enough to have a cousin that mentored me. ”
On President Biden, Mathis says, “I give him a B. You have to deliver what you say. I need to see what’s behind the curtain. ” The Judge wants Biden to sign some executive orders on police reform and to move forward on reparations.
For the full interview and to hear Mathis’s singing chops check out the video above.