No Right Way to Do Wrong

Cardale Walker success story
as told to Charles Austin (Groupon staff writer)

When he looks back now, Cardale Walker realizes that he was angry and lonely. But when his father was murdered in front of his eyes, the facts presented themselves differently. With no dad, no brothers, and nowhere to belong, he turned to his father’s lifestyle, joining the Blood Nation in the mid-‘90s.

[Photo Credit: Xavier Mascarenas]

Several years of violent altercations—shootings, stabbings—ultimately landed Cardale a 13-year prison sentence. In that time, he realized that, although he had harmed so many others, there wasn’t a mark on his own body. He had been spared. He decided that his life was a gift, and when he was freed in 2010, he set out to atone.

At first he was apprehensive about joining a violence-prevention program. His name was built on the streets, and the program could undermine the reputation he had made for himself. But when he heard that a prominent member of the Crip Nation had put his name behind such a program, Cardale made the leap as well.

As a member of Yonkers’ Project SNUG, he uses his experience to break the cycle of violence that took his father away and could have led him to a similar fate. When he first joined the program, his team’s zone—an area covering Schlobohm and Locust Hill—had experienced 233 shootings in a few short years. Moreover, he faced the mistrust of the police force, which feared he might be a part of the problem and not the solution.

At the time, no outreach workers were allowed into a community known as “The Hole”—a gated Schlobohm housing project. But over the months and years, Cardale proved his dedication to the cause, winning the trust of police, security, and most importantly, the community itself. He and the SNUG staff were permitted to host a barbecue in The Hole, which drew more than 800 people from the neighborhood.

cure_violence_partnership_bannerWith a staff of only five members, Cardale’s team helped spur a dramatic change in the community in just two years. The area that had suffered hundreds of gun-violence tragedies experienced only two shootings in 2012.

Cardale can’t change the past, but as an outreach worker, he can prevent today’s youth from repeating it. “There’s not a right way to do wrong,” he believes today. To the youth caught up in gang activity, he asks: What makes you think you’re going to have a better outcome than me?

Though he knows his words will only stay with some of the kids for an hour or so, he sets a lasting example through his actions and the guidance he provides. As a child, he wanted to follow in his father’s footsteps; today, he’s taking the steps his father never lived to take.

– Charles Austin