The Guilty Heart of a Ghetto Dependent: Justice for the Sake of Peace

This one comes to us from none other than Jonathan Adams: “Just before Christmas 2010, […]

Jonathan Adams / 7.16.12

This one comes to us from none other than Jonathan Adams:

“Just before Christmas 2010, a 36-year-old black man, Trevell Coleman, walks into a police station in Harlem and tells the cops that something’s been troubling him. He was involved in a shooting many years ago, sixteen or seventeen years ago, and has information they might want to hear. At first the cops take his name and number, tell him to go home, we’ll look into it, but that was a long time ago. They never call.

He goes back into the station a few weeks later. It is really eating him. He tells them he was the shooter. He doesn’t know if the guy lived or died, and he needs to know. He wants to tell the whole story. He wants to “make right” with the victim’s family. Incredibly, he waives his Miranda rights, does not ask for a lawyer, and begins to confess.”

I stumbled across the above passage the other day while on a flight to my favorite vacation spot. It comes from an article in GQ entitled “Bad Boy” by Jim Nelson. The piece recounts the tale of Trevell Coleman, a New York City man who lived with a guilty heart until he turned himself in. I initially thought Coleman was just another criminal, but then I read his stage name: G. Dep. (A.K.A Ghetto Dependent). A rapper who signed with Puff Diddy’s label Bad Boy Records in the late 90’s, G. Dep released his first LP, Child Of The Ghetto in 2001 and his single “Let’s Get It” went to #3 on the R&B charts. His career was about to take off when it took a sudden nosedive.

Haunted by a shooting that took place when he was a teenager, G. Dep began to spiral out of control. He slid into drug use and drug trafficking. After several arrests, he eventually got sober, turned his life around, married and had kids, but he still couldn’t shake his past. His secret crime was crushing him, yet he held it in for as long as he could.

Just before Christmas of 2010 Trevell had taken all the guilt he could handle. Indeed, there is something in the human heart that needs to repent and receive forgiveness. So, years after the police had stopped searching and left the cold case to pursue hotter trails, Trevell Coleman turned himself in. For seventeen years, he had been imprisoned by his past, and he knew that the only way to be set free was to confess. And that’s just what he did–only the desk clerk at the Harlem Police station would not listen.

The clerk took his name and number and sent Trevell home. After several restless weeks spent sitting by the phone, he went back again, this time to finally right his wrong. Trevell marched in, waived his Miranda rights, and started to loosen the chains that bound him for all those years. “I shot a man 17 years ago… He might have died… I need to know!” Quoting Nelson’s (GQ) interview, he confessed that:

“He was a teenager, out of work, living in the projects with his grandma. One day he bought a gun from another guy, a .40-caliber semiautomatic, and decided to use it to rob someone. Late, past midnight one night, he jumped on his bike and went scouting the neighborhood. He spotted a light-skinned man smoking underneath the elevated railroad tracks on Park Avenue and 114th Street, and figured he was easy prey. Walked up to the guy, told him to hand over his money. Instead, the man, who had six bucks in his pocket and PCP in his system, grabbed for the gun, and a brief struggle ensued. Trevell Coleman fired three shots. The man winced. Trevell managed to break free and flee on his bike—the guy was still lumbering after him but wilted in the middle of the road—and so Trevell, looking back, wondered: Did I get him? Bad? He would wonder that for seventeen years.”

As I think of Trevell Coleman, I think of myself, and the guilt-ridden heart that once haunted me. No, I have not murdered in the “G. Dep” sense of the word, but I have hated. I’ve lusted, stolen, and struggled with jealousy. My crimes may be more internalized, but they are no less palpable. I would be horrified if the world knew the extent of my sin.

I remember the day I “turned myself in,” but it wasn’t to a deputy at the Harlem police station, it was to a loving father who called me son and took all my sin and paid for it in full. Rather than enduring the heart-wrenching trial before the Judge, Jesus pleaded my case. Unlike Trevell, I never had to take the stand, sit in a courtroom and listen to lawyers argue about why I deserved a punishment. There was no need; my guilt-ridden heart already knew its guilt, just as G. Dep’s did. The Law had done its crushing work of convicting me, paving the way for the word of the Gospel, of the righteousness of Christ freely given to those who least deserve it, to cover me, as it does now and will continue to, come what may. When I turned myself in, God’s grace covered both my checkered past and checkered future, both my outward and inward criminality. For the first time I was truly declared innocent before a righteous judge. I was set free.

Today Trevell Colman is behind bars serving his time, but he is also a free man no longer haunted by his past. He is free to say, “the verdict was God’s will…I’m free at last I can sleep with peace knowing that” (MTV interview). G. Dep came to understand that, in the words of Martin Luther, “Peace is more important than all justice; and peace was not made for the sake of justice, but justice for the sake of peace.”

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3 responses to “The Guilty Heart of a Ghetto Dependent: Justice for the Sake of Peace”

  1. Rebecca W. says:

    I don’t know what else to say except “wow”.

  2. Bob Adams says:

    God Grace is so amazing yet while we were lost and going away from the Father He reached down sending His Son to take our place. Jonathan I am so very proud of all that God has done in and through you. A proud Dad

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