Where Malik Johnson lives, drug deals go down outside his doorstep. Cousins die in his arms. Parents do time in jail. And so do their kids.
Just two weeks ago, police say, a young man Johnson’s age robbed, shot and killed another teen in a cocaine-related incident at James A. Cayce Homes. It happened in a parking lot just outside Johnson’s front door.
Another horror in an adolescence riddled with them.
“I have had a long, long life,” 18-year-old Johnson says. “I have come way too far from 12 years old.”
Twelve is significant for Johnson. It is around that time that he experienced the first in a string of expulsions that would bounce him from school to school amid a jolt of loss, delinquency and defiance.
It is also the age that Johnson formed the relationship that may shape the rest of his life. That year, the Big Brothers Big Sisters program paired him with a mentor, an athlete named Joel Ward, whose purpose was to serve as a stabilizing presence.
In the beginning,…