Bobby Newsome Father, Game Changer, Leader Bobby wanted to permanently remove the shackles of his family’s 3 P’s; poverty, prison and the projects to build an new set of 3 P’s with promise, prosperity and progress. He made a bold move to purchase his own 3 family brownstone in his childhood neighborhood to raise his kids. After serving in the United States Air Force during the Vietnam War Newsome joined the U.S. Postal Service and served close to 40 years. Although he provided a middle class life for his children Bobby struggled with drug and alcohol addiction as a functional addict for most of his life until becoming ill with diabetes. However, prior to his death this father of 7 children changed the course of the vices that created destruction within his family. First, he wanted to openly show love to his children. His father never displayed that love to him and his brothers and sisters. He felt this caused them emotional and psychological problems. But he reminded his children to be responsible for their own actions. Unfortunately Bobby would die from complications from his diabetes just shy of his 60th birthday. In most families this would be considered a young age. In this family where most people died before their 40th birthday his life was considered a long one. Prior to his death Mr. Newsome gave his life to Christ and warned his children about taking God’s love for granted. Shaundell would inherit his dad’s pride in Black Heritage, financial management and organization skills. He also fears addiction because he believes it destroyed too many loved ones, including his grandparents.
Helen pushed for her children to become educated, spiritually grounded and aggressive in reaching their goals. She experienced enormous tragedy and family separation as a young child. Those early life lessons would make her an incredible witness for others in her family and community. God surrounded Mrs. Newsome with a spiritual mother and many others to forever change the course of a family destined for destruction. She became a fierce prayer warrior and an intense champion for change. She started by ensuring that her faith and relationship with God was right. Then she insisted that her children be raised in the church. She would not allow anyone else to influence her children by establishing a foundation of structure, discipline and the Bible. God injected a mentor, Hester Ziegler, a woman who lived next door to her family to assist Helen with raising her seven children and give guidance to the young mother. Ms. Hester was a mostly volunteer nanny who wanted to see the young Newsome couple and their children succeed. The children have fond memories of her stern rules and affectionate wisdom. Every time Ms. Newsome needed a resource God provided it to her. As a survivor, Mrs. Newsome believed that she can do the unthinkable. In the midst of two families with less than desirable role models she had to raise her young ones to ignore their surroundings and build a new expectation in Christian faith. Her guiding scripture for life would be “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.” Philippians 4:13. Obviously, Shaundell inherits his mother’s survival skills, passion for education and strong faith.
For whom much is given much is required is a conditioning at an early age for the young Shaundell. He attended Cornerstone Baptist Church Early Childhood Education Program to jumpstart the creative brain cells and cognitive growth. As a toddler he formed complete sentences far beyond the typical four year old. His ability to develop relationships with people twice his age showed a sign of maturity typically reserved for pre-teens. Helen placed unbelievable expectations on her eldest son to be an example not only for his younger siblings but all those who would come in contact with him. The strange thing about this approach is that Shaundell seemed to thrive in that atmosphere. The tougher the challenge the better he became. Learning tough street names like “Kosciusko” and “Stuyvesant” pushed the brilliance of the little boy. Later in life he would learn that the street names weren’t the only things that were tough. The cruel verbal bullying of children in his neighborhood became an igniter for some of his rage as a teenager and young adult. He was called “white boy” and “smarty pants” for his proper dialect and incredible desire to go to school. Bedford Stuyvesant, Brooklyn is a neighborhood known more for breeding basketball players and rappers than intellects.
Shaundell’s mother believed that her children should not only get an education in school but they needed a universal understanding of people. Unlike most mothers who often criticized the cultures that they did not understand Mrs. Newsome thought learning and embracing the differences can catapult her children beyond the streets that surrounded them. Initially her husband thought the idea might be odd but he could not buck the strong will and desire of Helen’s vision. She got real creative and enrolled her children into the Fresh Air Fund Summer Camp. This wasn’t your typical summer camp in the woods with counselors and camp fires. Kids from the city moved to a rural town with a family for two weeks to gain a difference perspective than urban life. Although this experiment did not work well for his younger siblings Shaundell would not only embrace his new white farming family he thrived in the strange land of St. Albans, Vermont. His “summer mom”, Carolyn asked if he could stay longer and Helen agreed. He learned how to adapt to his new summer surroundings for the next few years. Carolyn and Howard Rhodes informally adopted Shaundell as one of their own. Their children treated him as if he were there all year long. His world of fishing, camping, feeding chickens and goats was a brief escape from the polluted, impressionable streets of New York. When he returned home he found himself an outsider with the children in his neighborhood.
Middle school created a unique challenge for a short boy who was already a year younger than his peers because he started school early. Immediately following his graduation from P.S. 309 Shaundell’s summer brought more intensity preparing to attend Philippa Schuyler Middle School for the Gifted and Talented in the Bushwick section of Brooklyn. Since you had to pass a test and interview to attend this school most of the children were advanced in academics and character so this presented a comfort zone for him. Asians, Puerto Ricans, Jamaicans, African Americans, Jewish and many other cultures populated the school of nerds and gifted musicians. Shaundell enjoyed his new school. But every day he would return to Bed-Stuy to face the cruel teasing from the children on his block. Reading books and writing poems became his escape from the realities of the contrast of his two worlds.
On the weekends he went to Arthenia Newsome, his grandmother’s house to hear stories about her bout with white people who despite her light skin did not accept her because she was Black. However, she was not completely embraced with dark skinned Blacks because she looked white. White men loved her on the down low. Black men loved her for her almost white complexion. This experience caused her to exclaim her heritage boldly whenever given the chance. Shaundell’s grandfather had a different take on life. He moved to New York with ambitions to provide for his family. But according to him he was laid off as a construction worker because an Italian man wanted to give a job to his relative. He had no regard for the fact that this man had a family of 8 to take care of. Theodore Newsome was a bitter man who “hated” white people for how they ruined his dream. Prior to his death years later he told Shaundell two things that stuck with him for the rest of his life; (1) Always keep a dollar in your pocket so you don’t have to ask anyone for anything. (2) Work for yourself. Don’t let a person (white man) steal your dignity, self respect and the ability to take care of your family.
The teenage Shaundell faced more obstacles with feelings of abandonment and relationship issues with his father. He was sexually assaulted by an older teen which changed his life forever.
The summer leading up to high school was not a trip to the peaceful, green pastures of Vermont. Shaundell spent the hottest summer months this year in Brooklyn helping the seniors at the church with their backyards, singing in the youth choir and learning to be a man in the Unity Temple Cadet Corps. The Cadet Corps was led by the church’s men youth leaders to teach young boys the discipline of the military while instilling Christian values of being a man. They would meet on Saturdays to have discussions and drill sessions. Choir rehearsals were on Wednesday nights. The Unity Temple Youth Choir traveled in and out of town to sing at fellowship churches. The activities of the church seemed to work well for the new teenager. However, he would have an encounter with an older teenage member that changed his life forever.
Shaundell and his friends went to a church member’s house after spending a Saturday on an outing with the youth choir. It started out like a typical teenage gathering, watching television, talking and telling jokes. Everyone was eating and laughing. Shaundell went to the bathroom down the stairs away from the action. Unknowingly to him one of the teenagers followed him. As soon as he flushed the toilet the girl opened the bathroom door walked towards him, pressed his body against the wall and started to kiss him. He was confused. This was his first encounter of this kind. From what he had heard this was supposed to be a dream for a young man to be seduced by an older woman. She put her hands in his pants and fondled his genitals. She forced him to have sex with her while the others were upstairs continuing to enjoy the gathering. He did not know how to feel after the interaction. He just went home and never told anyone about the situation. When his friends asked him why he left he simply told them that he had to get home. Although he had to continue to attend the church, Shaundell avoided the young lady as often as he could and made sure he would never be alone with her again.
As a teenager Shaundell struggled with a relationship with his father. His dad worked countless hours to provide his children with a home that he said he always dreamed of. But he often spoke more about the house than a “home.” His father’s absence from the house played emotional games with the young teens mind. Shaundell was suspended on his first day of high school after violently attacking a Puerto Rican schoolmate for throwing his books out of the school’s window. Since he was always undersized and younger than his classmates Shaundell used his quick temper as a defense mechanism to ward off bullies. After that altercation he would not miss another day of school and he found his place amongst the honor students in Journalism as a reporter and editor for the school’s newspaper. Despite the objection of his mother Shaundell attended the New York School of Printing High School in Manhattan. The school later changed its name to Graphic Communication Arts. He learned graphic design, typesetting and copywriting. These were valuable trades for the communications capitol, New York City. His skill set led him to an internship with a church deacon who owned a printing company in Brooklyn. This relationship would prove valuable to the young impressionable teenager. He started out doing small program booklets for churches on his home computer which involved into doing special invitations for parties and fliers for local disc jockeys and party promoters. Shaundell could not escape his first sexual incident. His curiosity for the “real” love making experience would have him yearning for a long time. In high school he engaged in an on and off sexual relationship with a young girl his age and tenant in his parents brownstone. They got married after Shaundell enlisted in the United States Air Force because the couple had two children in high school and were expecting another child after their 19th birthdays. Despite the abrupt adaption to family life Shaundell still managed to acquire a New York Regent’s Diploma and maintain his Honors status in high school. He decided to forgo many scholarship opportunities to college to the dismay of his mom.
Shaundell feels like adversity in life is inevitable. People need to understand how to deal with adversity. No one is going to give you sympathy. In fact it’s just the opposite according to Newsome. Most people will take advantage of your inability to deal with the challenges of your life. Drug dealers, pimps and con artists feast on this person’s weakness. In fact the common person is willing to take a stab at your weakened spirit if you allow them to.
The United States Air Force was a great learning experience for the young airman who brought more baggage to the Las Vegas than a Boeing 747 aircraft filled with passengers. Shaundell embarked on Nellis Air Force Base in the middle of the dessert with an expecting wife, two children and an ambition to eradicate a family history of broken homes. The operations officer, Captain Lionel Starks would years later admit to him that no one gave him much of a chance when they realized that he had come from Bed-Stuy, Brooklyn with a family at 18 years old to start his military career. Shaundell felt since he dealt the hand he needed to play it out. However, his frustration and immaturity would often make matters worse. He recalled once calling home to speak with his grandmother complaining about his wife and the situation that he was in. She told him with a giggle “Baby, you decided to pick that woman out of the millions in New York to have babies with and marry. It’s your fault not hers.” That gave Newsome an attitude of taking responsibility for his decisions. Although his mother warned him prior to his departure about not asking God for guidance he forged ahead with stubbornness and juvenile exuberance. He believed that he got away from Brooklyn everything would be easier. You can’t run away from your troubles. They will follow you; even 3,000 miles.
After having a fourth child at 22 years old the young couple would engage in extra marital affairs and live in split households. Shaundell primarily stayed on the base with the four children while his ex-wife moved from apartment to apartment for several years. His worst nightmare came true. This dangerous relationship would last for another 5 years until Shaundell was ordered to get mental counseling from a concerned commander in his unit. He credits this decision with moving his life into a whole new direction. The self assessment process relied on him evaluating his actions that contributed to a failed marriage, infidelity and raising children in an environment destined to set them up for failure. The light bulb went off. He was about to erase the hard work of his father and mother to remove him from the culture that determined their family’s demise. Shaundell eagerly shared this revelation with the mother of his children. She refused to acknowledge that they had problems. He proceeded without her.