DURHAM, N.C. (WNCN) – A Triangle man has a message of hope for people who may need some inspiration in the new year.
For 43-year-old Michael Anderson, every day is a new beginning – and a chance to change a life.
His foundation, “Polished Souls,” mentors youth who find themselves entangled in gangs, crime and the criminal justice system.
He runs a successful television production company and is getting national attention for the documentary of his own life. He is also a budding actor with roles in several films.
But in 1990, Anderson was in a much different state of mind
“I became street-oriented as a teenager,” Anderson said.
He landed on the tough streets of Fayetteville, and immersed in a life of crime, after growing up with an abusive father and hanging around the wrong.
“I began selling drugs, selling guns, doing mischievous things,” he said.
Anderson said a beef with a rival gang led to something he thought would never happen.
“Guns were drawn, things got intense and before you know it I was put in a situation where I was protecting my best friend’s life as well and ended up killing one person and wounding another person,” he said.
Anderson found himself facing murder charges and a life sentence in prison at the age of 21.
“I did not get a speedy trial or due process correctly and then I was intimidated to take a plea bargain for life,” he said.
He thought he might spend the rest of his life in prison.
“When you hear those prison doors shut and those bars close, it’s an eerie feeling because it resonates within – in a negative way and in a morbid way,” Anderson said.
But Anderson was determined to fight and not spend his life in prison.
“So I began to pattern myself like this book I read called, ‘As a Man Thinketh,’ by James Allen,” he said.
“I discovered my intellect to the point where I was able to say, ‘You know what, I want to get involved in education.’’”
While in prison he earned two college degrees and became a model inmate, a mentor and a man with growing faith.
Antonio Gardner, a former corrections officer and now a good friend, met Anderson in the Harnett County correctional facility.
“He was very remorseful for what happened and again very focused, he had dreams beyond the prison walls,” Gardner said.
For 17 years, Anderson never lost sight of his goal of getting out of prison.
When he finally got in front of the parole board in 2006, he had a plan.
“By the time I came to my parole board hearing, I had a seven-page document that consisted of a seven-year plan,” he said.
He was released on May 11, 2008 – Mother’s Day. Seven years later, he has a wife and a young son. He said every goal in that plan has been met.
“Just so many things that I’m positive and motivated about because it keeps me busy,” he said.
Anderson is now a public speaker and has written a book about his life. His story is starting to get the attention of major movie studios.
He has a message for those looking for hope in the new year.
“Even though you’ve taken a hard fall,” he said, “you can come back and make the best of it.”