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Disabato: Torri Stuckey leaves a mark with his book, “Impoverished State of Mind, Thinking Outside da Block”

'Impoverished State Mind Thinking Outside dBlock' by Torri Stuckey. | Supplied photo

"Impoverished State of Mind, Thinking Outside da Block" by Torri Stuckey. | Supplied photo

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Updated: February 25, 2013 6:10AM



Torri Stuckey’s intention isn’t to win a Pulitzer Prize.

Nor is it to one day see his book — “Impoverished State of Mind, Thinking Outside da Block” — turned into a blockbuster movie.

Stuckey’s goal? Ensuring children no longer are hindered by “a false sense of blackness.”

It’s a delicate subject, but one Stuckey tackles fearlessly and with confidence.

And why not? He lived it.

A ferocious hitter at defensive back, a locomotive carrying the ball, Stuckey was a dominating two-way physical presence on Eisenhower’s football team from 1997 to ’99. Then, the child of Robbins’ Richard Flowers Projects entered a new world on the North Shore — Evanston’s Northwestern University.

“By my junior year, I was going back home to Robbins and my friends are saying I talk funny. I’m not talking street enough or urban enough,” Stuckey said. “It was a struggle. But I was just being me. There was nothing to be ashamed of when I looked in the mirror.

“Don’t mistake black poverty for black pride. Being from the ’hood has absolutely nothing to do with being black. It makes reference to your social economic status. Unfortunately, African-Americans have been associated with poverty for so long that it’s hard to distinguish the two.”

Forget all those touchdowns, many leaving me shaking my head in wonderment, that Stuckey scored at Eisenhower. He saved the most powerful performance to this point in his life for this book, which is equal parts inspiration, motivation and education.

“I want as many kids as possible to have a life-changing experience reading this book,” Stuckey, 30, said. “It’s real and it’s authentic. I’m saying what needs to be said and saying it unapologetically.”

With that said, there is a strong likelihood portions of the book will offend segments of the African-American community whose value systems differ from Stuckey’s.

The 156-page book is raw and real, providing a firsthand account of Stuckey’s journey from growing up in the Projects surrounded by abandoned buildings, corner liquor stores, drugs, prostitution, gangs and guns to the personal transformation that occurred while he was at Northwestern.

The book, however, is not an autobiography. Instead, Stuckey hopes his personal experiences might empower teenagers struggling to find a way out of the ’hood.

“Being impoverished is more than just a socioeconomic status; it is a state of mind,” Stuckey said. “Beyond the absence of money and all other necessities, this mind-set is the reason why many who live in poverty struggle to rise above it.”

To overcome this mind-set, Stuckey suggests his young readers create a value system, eliminate distractions, develop a winning attitude, maximize their potential, avoid self-inflicted wounds and to dream big, among other offerings.

He suggests readers stop making excuses and start being accountable for their life; that they not allow their surroundings to dictate who they are or what they can become.

You may live in poverty, he argues, but you can escape and enjoy a fulfilling life.

“Yes, you’re without the same resources as others,” said Stuckey, an account manager for a major railroad company and also vice president and co-founder of Cover Three Publishing. “Those are realities. Some people, a lot of people, use those circumstances as a reason to not be successful in life. Those are excuses.

“I want to transform their minds, the way they think and look at things, through this book. There is more to life than living in the ’hood. A lot of kids are lost. I want to help them empower themselves.”

Stuckey recalls how he struggled fitting in socially at Northwestern. But he realized his own misconceptions, formed from growing up, were to blame. Northwestern opened his eyes to the real world and made him realize what he called his “false sense of blackness.”

“There’s a world of difference from Robbins to Evanston,” said Stuckey, who graduated with a communications degree from Northwestern in 2004. “It exposed me to other things than living in the projects for the past 18 years. I had some fundamental thoughts that were just wrong. A distorted reality. It shook my foundation.

“I grew, matured. I was a totally different person. Not the nurture part; the nature part. Myths were dispelled.”

The book has been well received, Stuckey said. He would like to see it get in as many hands as possible, primarily those of African-American teenagers.

I hope it does. It can be a life-changer.

In a further attempt to reach more eyes and ears, he’s setting up workshops at schools to further inspire, motivate and educate.

“A lot of kids are lost,” said Stuckey, a married father with a young daughter (he and his wife are expecting a son in April). “I’m trying to help them find their way.”



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