LifestyleProject Pat visits D.C. youths to share his faith and experiences

Project Pat visits D.C. youths to share his faith and experiences

Patrick Earl Houston, the rapper known as Project Pat, has toured prisons and jails across the United States for years to spread what he calls the good news of Jesus Christ. Though many of his tunes have been lauded for their street relatability, Houston’s been embarking on his mission of inspiring others through the Go Foundation, a prison ministry he launched in 2020, and he recently came to the D.C. area to empower local youth.

Dozens of young people who are staying at the Youth Services Center (YSC) on Mt. Olivet Road in Northeast and New Beginnings Youth Development Center in Laurel, Maryland recently met and gleaned wisdom from a spiritually awakened Houston during sessions he held at both D.C. Department of Youth Rehabilitation Services (DYRS) facilities. 

On the morning of April 26, Houston started his visits at YSC and New Beginnings with a word of prayer. He then spoke to the young men, many of whom have been in contact with the system for years, about the power of positive change. 

“When you’re 16 and 17, your mind starts thinking differently. You start thinking about being grown, even though you’re not grown,” said Houston, 51. “I told them that if you want good, you have to seek out good. A lot of choices affect your future.”

Rapper Project Pat speaks to young people at the District’s Department of Youth Rehabilitation Services’ New Beginnings Youth Center on April 26. (Ja’Mon Jackson/The Washington Informer)
During each session, Houston engaged youths in candid conversation about how he overcame adversity in his life. He later passed out copies of  “Right and Wrong Thinking” by Kenneth E. Hagin and “The Tongue of Creative Force” by Charles Capps. He said both books convey messages that he took a long time to consistently follow since first discovering the power of the Most High as a youngster. 

“You have to have a good relationship with God,” Houston said. “As men especially, we let our ego get in the way of God’s blessing us to be who we truly can be,” he continued. “You have people who are still messed up because there is a negative force drawing them back to drugs and the streets. You need the power of God, the power of Jesus, to break that.” 

Project Pat Connects Beyond His Artistry 

Houston, the older brother of Three 6 Mafia founding member Jordan “Juicy J” Houston, has a rap career spanning more than 30 years. After serving a lengthy prison sentence throughout the 1990s, he reemerged with his solo album, “Ghetty Green,” on his brother’s Hypnotize Minds label. 

In 2000, Houston gained mainstream notoriety when he provided the hook on Three 6 Mafia’s “Sippin’ on Some Syrup.”  Later, after the release of his second studio album, “Mista Don’t Play: Everythangs Workin,” Houston served a four-year prison sentence for a parole violation. Shortly before his incarceration, he released “Layin’ Da Smack Down.” 

Upon coming home from prison in 2005, Houston continued his music career, releasing at least four more albums, including “Walkin’ Bank Roll” and “Real Recognize Real.” Many of the young people who Houston encountered at YSC and New Beginnings however heard little, if anything, about his music career.  

As one New Beginnings resident explained, Houston related to his audience. 

“It wasn’t about the streets, but it was about him trying to build a connection and trying to relate to our situation,” said a New Beginnings resident who asked to be identified as V.K. “ He was trying to put himself in our shoes in order to get a message to us. He was saying life doesn’t revolve around the streets.”

Another New Beginnings resident by the name of P.M. said Houston’s words helped them reflect on the events that brought them into contact with the justice system. 

“He didn’t really speak about the music industry much, but he spoke about his life and experiences and how he changed his life and overcame so much,” P.M. said. “Even though he’s from out of town I felt his struggle and felt like I could relate when he talked about being in the streets, on the run, with nowhere to go, and feeling hopeless. I’ve been there before.” 

Working to Overcome DYRS Challenges

Reports of overcrowding and staff shortages at YSC in recent months have called into question DYRS’ ability to maintain a safe environment for young residents. On May 8, the D.C. Council’s Committee on Recreation, Libraries and Youth Affairs, chaired by D.C. Councilmember Trayon White (D-Ward 8), recommended that DYRS implement strategies to deter violent behavior and strengthen security measures in facilities under its purview. 

Those strategies include training staff members and doling out consequences for acts of violence that residents commit against staff members and other residents. The ultimate goal, the committee report said, centers on the creation of an environment that’s conducive to youth residents’ rehabilitation while at YSC and New Beginnings.  

To that end, Houston’s visit counts among several events inspired by  “Friday Nights with the Superintendent,” during which DYRS Superintendent Douglas White brings motivational speakers to speak with YSC and New Beginnings residents. 

As DYRS Director Sam Abed recounted to The Informer, White reached out to Houston earlier this year upon learning about the Go Foundation. Abed said that Houston immediately and enthusiastically responded to the call to help District youth. For Abed, Houston’s presence primed the youth at YSC and New Beginnings for thought-provoking conversations. 

Such an exchange, he said, further advances DYRS’ mission. 

“It’s important for our young people to see those outside volunteers who connect with them in ways that our staff cannot,” Abed said. “Volunteers that come with lived experiences and turn themselves around to show that they are for kids.”

Abed explained these inspirational talks can be life-changing for DYRS residents.

 “I see young people look up to elders who are respected in the community,” he told The Informer. “You have to give background on the person’s importance and influence, but the connection makes a difference.”

Source: Washington Informer

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