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Breaking the cycle: Nonprofit helps kids of incarcerated parents get on the right path

Posted at 8:22 AM, Dec 16, 2021

DETROIT (WXYZ) — “I went to prison when I was 18 years old,” Dwight Harris said.

“How old are you now?” WXYZ’s Glenda Lewis asked.

“Fifty-three,” Harris said.

Dwight Harris spent 25 years behind bars for assault with intent to murder. And now being back home in Detroit for almost a decade, Harris is sure there was more behind this harsh sentence.

“My father was locked up when I was 4 and my mother, I hadn’t met her until I was like 13, and when I did meet her, she was incarcerated as well,” Harris said. “So because of that, I have a passion to help those who are going through the school-to-prison pipeline,” Harris said.

“A lot of the children whose parents are incarcerated, we end up going right behind them... So, I just wanted to stop that cycle,” Harris continued.

In an effort to break the cycle of kids following in their parents' footsteps to prison, Harris began a mentoring group six years ago in two of Detroit's most troubled zip codes, promoting expression and critical thinking. And now, he has created Icon-10.

"Icon-10 is a nonprofit organization that was geared toward helping those who come home from prison to home to reentry into the community," Harris said. “The reentry helps men and women adjust once they come home such as getting their ID, Medicare and Medicaid.

The nonprofit has helped Michael Bailey get back on his feet after being locked up for 55 years for a robbery at 16 years old. Now, Bailey helps Harris in keeping the neighborhood children on their toes.

“We interact with the kids, we take them on field trips, we take them to basketball games, we take them camping, we take them out of town. That's what they need. All they need is somebody to show interest. Just show that you care, and you can change their lifestyle. I needed that as well as a kid,” Bailey said.

Icon-10 regularly teams up with Worlds Boxing Gym, a longtime neighborhood mentoring place on Schaefer Highway near Chalfonte Street in Detroit. The gym is sharing young people to support.

“He brings me kids and I send kids his way, and we kind of help each other out just to get the kids off the street. If we can get four or five off the street, it’s an accomplishment,” Julio Hernandez said.

Hernandez is head coach at World's Best Boxing Gym and mentoring program.

I’m looking at three examples of taking a life tragedy and turning it into triumph for a community,” Lewis said.

“How do you do that? Where do you find that?” Lewis asked.

“I did 13 years in a federal penitentiary and when I came home, I kind of made that decision to lead the right path,” Hernandez said. “And guys like Dwight devote their lives to this. It's what we do, train kids, train adults, help them have a better life,” Hernandez said.

“This gym has been involved in the work in helping children since I've been home for 10 years, so my passion is to help the children try to break that cycle,” Harris said.

On Dec. 18, Icon-10 will be having a Christmas party at Hazel’s Place at 5516 Michigan Avenue in Detroit. You can help by donating toys or monetary donations to Icon-10.

They are hoping to give toys to all ages from infants to 13 years old to help them celebrate Christmas this year.