J. Everette Pearsall: From West Baltimore to the World
“From West Baltimore to the World”
My name is J. Everette Pearsall and I am honored to share my journey from West Baltimore to the World. I came from humble beginnings as the second oldest of five siblings. For most of my life, I was raised as the middle child until my mother remarried and bore two additional children. My older brother was born in subsidized housing (“the projects”). My mother and father then moved to a very small house in a West Baltimore area referred to as “Edmondson Village”. I can sum up the story of my life and success with four words that start with the letter F - Fortune, Football, Faith, and Focus.
My mother and father’s marriage did not last very long, in large part because of domestic violence. Ironically, this leads me to my first word - FORTUNE. While society sees this as a negative that I grew up in a fatherless household, I was still fortunate in the midst of a situation that should have ended in failure. I was fortunate to have a strong mother taking on the task of mother, father, and provider. Without a high school diploma, my mother worked day and night to make sure we had food on the table and a roof over our heads. She showered us with love and although we didn’t have everything, we had all we needed. I was faced with many of the challenges that come with a fatherless household. There was no male disciplinarian and no male role model. This, in turn, led to no clear view of a path to prosperity for a male, nor was there any representation of what success looked like for an African American male. Any relative who knew me as an adolescent would have bet everything they owned I would end up dead, or in jail. I developed a very aggressive temperament and I was very mischievous. I have no idea today, how my mother had the patience to stick with me; but, thank God, she did. That is why I am fortunate to have her for my mother.
FOOTBALL was my saving grace in many ways. The game allowed me to exhaust much of my aggressive temperament. In my neighborhood, the only black men I ever saw with money were in the drug game or athletes on television. Since I performed well on the football field, I felt that football was my way to prosperity. It kept me out of the drug game and reduced my number of fights. I didn’t anticipate all of the positive influences that sports would give me. I traveled to different states to compete and learned to deal with teammates and it taught me discipline and work ethic. Ultimately, it gave me an opportunity to earn a college education, which is the most important thing in my path to success.
Education was taboo when I grew up. Speaking with the proper diction and getting good grades was ridiculed. From kindergarten until 9th grade, I don’t remember doing much homework, at all. I got an A in Math, which I enjoyed, and an A in physical education. All the other subjects were D’s and just enough to pass to the next grade. One of the most pivotal moments in my life occurred in the 9th grade. I was going to be expelled from school for having an altercation with a teacher. Even though football helped me with my aggression, it didn’t absorb it all. The teacher did not tell the story completely and accurately, my reputation for mischief preceded me, so I was labeled and punished accordingly. My mother came to the school and demanded that the principal reduce my expulsion to a 3 day home suspension. This experience leads me to my next word - FAITH. Right or wrong, I saw how much it embarrassed my mother to be in that office and how she still maintained her faith in me. I decided at that very moment to never put her in that position again. To repay all of her hard work and dedication to me and my siblings, I would do everything I could to make her proud. From that point forward, I accomplished A’s in every class for the remainder of my high school career. I was selected to speak at my high school’s commencement. This was an honor and a long way from expulsion three years prior. There is always a point in your life when you make a decision to recognize who you are and take accountability for where you want to end up.
I was blessed to receive a full scholarship to the perfect school for me. It was a small Christian school with a good football team, which leads me to my ever important last word - FOCUS. It’s so important to stay laser-focused on your goals and make sure you don’t deviate from that focus. I arrived at college with $90 to last me all year and I still have the ledger that spelled out how I spent it. It reminds me from where I have come. I graduated with honors and as one of the few 4-year football lettermen. I started my professional career at IBM and I have surpassed two decades of success in business and sales. I have traveled the world and have been to most every major city in the United States. Although my career has yielded me millions in income, I am most proud of my contribution to society helping found and grow the National Alliance of African American Athletes. It is now one of the most effective and esteemed organizations for African Americans and disenfranchised youth in the nation.
My mother would have never allowed me to measure my success in material things. So, I don’t! I choose to measure my success in the lives I have positively affected! I pray that God continues to bless me so I can be a blessing to others.