Positive Directions Equals Change: Resiliency, character and hope

People who care about other folks’ struggles gathered at Mother Brown’s on Dec. 21, just in time for Christmas, for a coat giveaway. District 10 Supervisor Shamann Walton was there, and organizations represented included Adult Probation, Nova, Westside and Positive Directions. – Photo: Malik Washington

On Oct. 23, 1993, 28 African American men who were recent graduates of Delancey Street Foundation, a non-traditional treatment facility that teaches self-sufficiency, accountability and a strong work ethic, formed a support group. At the time, we embarked on a lifelong journey to create lasting sustainability. We met at Lee and Gwen Boone’s home in the Bayview area of San Francisco to discuss how we were going to foster the continuous development and improvement of the knowledge and skills needed for employment and personal fulfillment. 

Our goal was to create a support network and sounding board to connect those who faced similar challenges and to continue our fight from incarceration, drug use and abuse. The data revealed a disproportionate number of Black men who had completed the program were not sustaining their sobriety and the probability of recidivism linked to personal, sociological, economic and lifestyle factors was prevalent. The support group model was effective to address the emotional and personal struggles we had experienced once we became graduates of Delancey Street. 

Several months after graduation, recognizing the impactful work and extended benefits not just for us, but for our families and the community, we strategized about how we could give back to those who may have been affected by past behavior. Our close-knit support group was expanded by allowing others – men, women and those of all races, religions, colors and national origins – to become members. We also began to do fundraisers, sponsoring clean and sober dances in the community, inviting families and community members to BBQs, feeling grateful for what we were doing, making a brand and name for ourselves, but we wanted more.

The mission of Positive Directions Equals Change, Inc., is to promote a philosophy, a set of principles, and a program that inspires personal and social responsibility within our community.

Positive Directions Equals Change, Inc., was an evolution of our desire to work within the community to identify its needs, find resources – internal and/or external – to deal with these needs in a strategic and collaborative manner. During one of our monthly business meetings in January 1994, Cregg Johnson and Cedric Akbar were chosen to formalize our collective vision, organizational mission statement, membership structure and business formation. The initial formulation and service offerings was based on an out-patient treatment program that morphed into case management, substance abuse treatment, transitional housing and employment opportunities. 

The mission of Positive Directions Equals Change, Inc., is to promote a philosophy, a set of principles, and a program that inspires personal and social responsibility within our community. We want to address long-term community needs, barriers and solutions that will reduce the incidence of drug abuse and incarceration in our neighborhoods and to deliver services to assist individuals and their families to succeed in treatment and recovery from drug addictions and reduce destructive behavior. 

The name PDEC had become synonyms through the City and County of San Francisco as a collaborative community partner. Over the last 27 years we have had the opportunity to assist families with reunification, serving thousands of men and women with criminal and substance abuse backgrounds at high success rates. 

The organization has reached a milestone. Our strategic planning process has shown that the organization’s mission is as relevant today as it was in 1993. The future is bright. There is so much more that we can tell you about our journey. Of course there was a multitude of barriers that were put forth, in and out of the organization. 

But we were gracious and rose above it all. Resiliency, character and hope! Currently, we offer support groups each day of the week. The schedule is below and all are welcome. Contact us at recoverycorner@pd4life.org.

A word from SF Bay View Editor Malik Washington

I thought if I would ever be placed back into prison or jail it would be because I relapsed or couldn’t deal with life on life’s terms. However, that is not why I am currently being threatened with jail. I am being threatened because I dared to confront and challenge a multibillion dollar corporation that has profited on the misery of oppressed and poor people. 

I am being threatened with a return to jail because the U.S. government has created rules by which a person who is incarcerated has limited free speech freedoms. I am proud of what I have been able to accomplish in a relatively short period since my release in September and assuming the role of editor in November. I also am confident that the people of San Francisco and the entire Bay Area will rally behind me. 

I want every one of you reading this piece to know that I could not do anything without my sobriety. This is why we should support organizations like Positive Directions because this is the type of organization that has helped people like me reclaim their lives. I will never surrender and neither should you! I love my new sober lifestyle. 

Dare to struggle, Dare to win. All Power to the People.