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After incarceration: 'my life work now is to assist these young people.'

Lonnie Lockhart Bey wears a dark blue shirt and glasses. He is speaking into a microphone and gesturing with his other hand.
Rebecca Smith

Lonnie Lockhart Bey, Mataka Askari and Supreme Allah all previously served time in the Missouri Department of Corrections. Since being released, they have all chosen to work with at-risk youth in Columbia.

Lockhart Bey, who served 26 years beginning as a juvenile, spoke about how his experiences as a child impact his work today.

Missouri Health Talks gathers Missourians’ stories of access to healthcare in their own words.

Lonnie Lockhart Bey: Not all seeds grow in the same type of environment. So, all of us are different spirits and we are motivated by different things.

So, what we have to do is understand that we were given the parents we were supposed to have, we grew up in the neighborhoods we were supposed to be, we endured the struggle we were supposed to struggle – because this is what makes you who you are.

Everybody got their own ills. Everybody struggles from their perspective, and so now, as a grown man, I understand my mission and my purpose. All of this was meant for me to be sitting right here, right now.

Because had I not been through what I've been through, had I not open a refrigerator and nothing but a box of baking soda was in there – I wouldn't understand what -

Mataka Askari: - what poverty like.

Lockhart Bey: Yeah. What poverty is.

Askari: And adverse childhood experiences.

Lockhart Bey: And what hunger insecurity looks like.

I wouldn't understand the arguing, the bickering – where you ain't getting no sleep and now, you got to go to school and you still tired. You tired and you hungry.

Now I'm here, and when I see them young kids that I deal with on a daily basis –

Askari: You know.

Lockhart Bey: I know what it feels like.

Supreme Allah: Yeah, bro.

Lockhart Bey: So, when I see…

Askari: Not intellectually alone. Not a book – you know.

Lockhart Bey: Yeah.

Just like this morning, one little boy come in there and he went and got a pillow and laid on the floor, and we put him in office with a blanket and a pillow. “Get you some sleep, young man.”

"One of the students said, 'Man, I'm kinda sad school is ending. It's a safe place.'"
Mataka Askari

Askari: Come on, man.

Lockhart Bey: “Get you some sleep.”

It don't mean that he don't want to be there.

Askari: As I worked with some of the kids in Columbia Public Schools and summer vacation started to near, one of the students said, “Man, I'm kinda sad school is ending. It's a safe place.”

Lockhart Bey: We know that that safe place is critical.

This is the place where you can open up without judgment. That's what it boils down to.

Askari: Ain’t no doubt. Ain’t no doubt. So -

Lockhart Bey: I want to I want to say this before we leave.

Even though we're talking about these things, this does not negate -

Allah: What we did.

Lockhart Bey: What we did to go to prison.

Allah: I knew that was where you were going. That’s for real.

Askari: Yep.

Lockhart Bey: And so, that should be stated. Because part of my journey and what I do is because of my past.

Askari: Ain’t no doubt.

Allah: Accountability.

Lockhart Bey: Accountability, right?

Allah: That’s big, man.

Lockhart Bey: I have to do what I can to help society because I've hurt society.

Askari: Yeah. Redemption.

Lockhart Bey: Yeah.

Askari: Redemption.

Lockhart Bey: So, for all of the victims of any crime, my heart go out to you.

Askari: Ain’t no doubt.

Lockhart Bey: And so, for me, my life work now is to assist these young people to help them get to a place far beyond the way that I was feeling that ultimately led me to prison. Because I know what happens once you get in that dark space.

Allah: Yes.

Askari: Ain’t no doubt. That was beautiful.

Rebecca Smith is an award-winning reporter and producer for the KBIA Health & Wealth Desk. Born and raised outside of Rolla, Missouri, she has a passion for diving into often overlooked issues that affect the rural populations of her state – especially stories that broaden people’s perception of “rural” life.
Katie Quinn works for Missouri Business Alert. She studied radio journalism and political science at the University of Missouri- Columbia, and previously worked at KBIA.