By Edward Henderson (The San Diego Voice and Viewpoint, NNPA Member)
The term ‘crack baby’ emerged into the social consciousness in the 80’s and 90’s during the crack epidemic sweeping minority communities. It referred to children who had been exposed to the drug because of their mother’s usage during pregnancy. It picked up additional stereotypical connotations that labeled people with a lack of intelligence or propensity for failure in life. Shawn Blanchard is all too familiar with this term. His mother abused crack cocaine while she was pregnant with him. The physical side effects were minimal, however, the emotional toll was a significant barrier to overcome. Blanchard faced these challenges head-on, through hard work, faith, and passion for his purpose of mentorship. These traits lead him to success in education, business and authorship. His book “How About that for a Crack Baby” chronicles his journey towards success and empowers others with the confidence to do the same.
Blanchard was born in Detroit, Michigan and spent his developmental years living with his grandmother because his parents couldn’t decide who was going to keep him. Blanchard’s mother was a professional shoplifter and didn’t have much contact with his father. There wasn’t much of a support system around him either. Of his 7 brothers, most ended up dead or in jail and when his Grandmother passed away when Blanchard was 12, he took most of the responsibility for his younger siblings.
“I learned some pretty interesting things about hustling,” said Blanchard. “I sold weed and other drugs. I did what I thought I had to do in order to make ends meet.”
Blanchard went to a school with 40 percent graduation rate, but excelled in academics and was active in student government. He went on to study at the University of Michigan but his duel life eventually caught up with him. Blanchard continued to hustle on the side while he was at school in order to support himself and his family. He got caught selling drugs at school, and he spent three days and three nights in jail his sophomore year.
“I felt like I let a lot of people down,” said Blanchard. “I felt like I was the one who was supposed to make sure I show people how to pave the way so you can be great no matter where you came from. I wasn’t doing that at the time. I needed to make a pivot.”
During his time in jail, Blanchard found a Bible in his cell and gave his life to God. From that moment, he promised if he was able to be delivered from this situation he would develop his life and make sure young people didn’t go the same route he chose. Because of his good standing at school and relationships he built, Blanchard’s professors helped to bail him out and he was able to continue his education without expulsion. He graduated with his degree in math and economics in 2005 and went on to get his masters in secondary math education in New York.
“I thought I was going to get kicked out, that’s when God kicked in,” said Blanchard.
In New York, Blanchard co-founded a mentoring program to reach out to young men with similar backgrounds as his growing up. He even temporarily adopted one of the young men in the program who was in particularly bad shape at the time. When he graduated, however, the young man had become class president, touted a 3.8 GPA and was accepted to every college he applied to.
News coverage from the temporary adoption prompted a publishing company to reach out to learn more about the story. When they heard about Blanchard’s background, they asked him to write a book for them. His book entitled, “How About that for a Crack Baby,” delves into the details of his past and how he overcame everything that was in his way.
“People can expect an emotional roller coaster,” said Blanchard. “It’s going to entertain you, it’s going to show you how you can do anything you want to do, it’s going to challenge you to mentor and be mentored.”
The young author moved back to Detroit to go to law school and the book came out five years later. He spent time teaching math at this alma mater, started a fitness company and became a co-owner of a custom suit company. Blanchard continued his work as a mentor in the mayor’s office as the director of youth services. He’s helping ignite President Obama’s My Brother’s Keeper initiative in the city of Detroit.
Today, Blanchard is the CEO of Shawn Blanchard Productions, which focuses on public speaking, publishing mentorship, entrepreneurship and the image of excellence.
“I’m excited about duplicating greatness,” said Blanchard. “I want to keep making sure I raise the bar, so more people start falling into the rule instead of the exception.”
To learn more about Blanchard and his company visit www.iamshawnblanchard.com/.