From left to right: Taahir, Yusef Wiley and TimeList board member, Ansar Greenwell. Photo by Sa’Nae Ellis
They once used to be enemies. A Blood and a Crip. But now, Yusef Andre Wiley and Taahir Michael Prather have come together to make a difference.
It sounds like a made-for-TV special produced by Snoop. Only it’s real. Two hardened Southern California gangsters turned their lives around to teach others not to make the same mistakes they made in their youth.
Wiley used to run with the Los Angeles Bloods. He spent almost two decades in state prison.
Now, his beard speckled with grey, Wiley teaches Islamic studies at a high school. He converted to Islam in prison and hasn’t looked back since. He began studying Islamic jurisprudence in prison and eventually became a preacher inside.
He credits his conversion with changing his life.
“I was an animal,” says Wiley, of his past life. “I really wanted to make a name for myself.”
After being released from prison in 2012, a name is just what he’s making for himself. Wiley launched a nonprofit organization in California, targeting the issue of gang violence in prisons and in California.
And his partner is none other than Prather, a man who would have been his enemy in a previous life.
When meeting the jolly Prather for the first time, he comes off as anything but a gangster. With an excited grin and exuberant handshake, one would hardly remember the life he once lived. A similar story to Wiley’s, Prather was once caught up in the world of gangs. After years of fighting for parole, he was finally granted parole in 2012.
Wiley doesn’t have Prather’s exuberance, but he shares his enthusiasm. An introvert, Wiley is constantly working on the next new idea. And his ideas have been instrumental to the community, helping build programs and complex proposals to combat youth violence.
Prather and Wiley didn’t waste any time after being released. Both men got married to their lady loves shortly after getting parole.
Now, both men are working tirelessly at setting up TimeList Group, a group that travels around California giving counseling to at-risk youth.
But that’s not all the group does. Most recently, three TimeList board members (Wiley, Prather and Tracey Ansar Greenwell) went to Sacramento to present before a panel of state legislators on TimeList’s initiatives for curbing gang violence inside prison walls.
“Let’s take this state-wide,” one legislator said, in regards to TimeList’s programs.
But as with all nonprofits, TimeList faces stiff challenges ahead for funding. TimeList is in the process of obtaining its 501(c)(3) exemption and is pounding the pavement trying to raise awareness. Wiley has committed his time to helping the organization, but he also took on a new role after his release– husband and father.
He’s also taking the time to savor every minute of life. What’s next for Wiley?
“I’m thinking of starting a halal BBQ food truck.”
Find out more about TimeList here: www.timelistgroup.org