The 19-year-old Bronzeville native and current Morehouse College sophomore strongly disagrees with Lee's "Chi-Raq" theme saying women abstaining from sex will reduce Chicago's gang and violence issues. Lawrence instead said his path to Morehouse — where he overcame finding his father after he committed suicide, the shooting death of his cousin, Robert Munn, growing up in the projects and being surrounded by gang members — is a better blueprint for the city's teenagers and children.
Lawrence, a King College Prep graduate who's the first person in his immediate family to attend college, recently finished a year-long statement piece he calls "The Letter for Transformation." In it, Lawrence discusses his troubled past and how he has survived and thrived despite it.
"The lesson is that despite these problems, those setbacks, and the hell that you may be living in, you still hold the capacity to achieve," Lawrence wrote in the letter. "You also have the ability to make positive decisions in the wake of the devastating violence outbreak in Chicago."
Lawrence, who was good friends with Hadiya Pendleton, told DNAinfo that Chicago's kids in impoverished neighborhoods have unlimited potential if they believe in themselves.
"The way you feel within can determine your future," Lawrence said. "I don't like to see so many people dying, especially people who haven't had a chance to truly live. If I can influence someone who is 14 years old and not go out and fight or feel anger toward someone else, that's my goal. I want them to feel like they can be more than they are portrayed."
Lawrence met Lee twice this summer, once in Chicago and another time at Morehouse, where Lee, a Morehouse graduate, showed snippets of "Chi-Raq." Lawrence said the theme in "Chi-Raq" would never succeed in Chicago.
"I know it wouldn't work," he said. "It's not a good way of trying to stop the violence."
Lawrence said he was asked to join a gang during his freshman year of high school, but declined. He wanted something better for himself and others, through education. He graduated from King with a 3.2 grade point average and is studying psychology at Morehouse. He quests to earn a doctorate in the field, then return to Chicago to build a mental health facility, preferably on the South Side.
He looks at his time at Morehouse, where he has five scholarships helping to pay for his education, as "strictly business."
"I'm itching to get back to help the city," Lawrence said. "I want to show the type of influence that could come from me being the first in my family to graduate from college. I believe it's important to want to do the right thing, but some people are only trying to do something for themselves. I want to create something better for the community."
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