As street gang violence in Chicago rages out of control, law keepers and politicians continue to toil with solutions. A generational saga, not many can relate to the back-story causes that rest at the root of this very tragic dilemma. With history dating as far back to the influence of the original gangster Al Capone, a recent NPR story aptly noted that many of Chicagoland gangs are “older enterprises than Microsoft and Yahoo.”
Harold “Noonie G” Ward is one man who can intimately relate with the violence at both the cause and effects levels. “Noonie G,” as he is popularly known, is a former high-ranking member of the Gangster Disciples, a Chicago area gang reported to be one of the largest criminal organizations in the United States. Once considered a prominent force of terror on the city’s South Side, Ward has been on a mission to change the effects of causes he understands and relates to on a very personal level.
The devastating rise in violent gun deaths has prompted Ward to announce the re-release of his DVD alongside the new release of his book, both titled, “Gangster with a Heart of Gold: The Noonie G Story.” Motivated by a strong sense of responsibility and desire to inspire positive change, Ward has pledged to donate 5000 copies of the books and DVD’s during the holiday season to organizations around the country committed to curbing street violence and uplifting inner city youth. “Gangster with a Heart of Gold: The Noonie G Story” is narrated by Chicago natives Grammy Award winner Kanye West and celebrated hip hop artist and actor Common. Both artists provide the book’s foreword as well.
From convict to conqueror, pistol to pen, Ward serves as a legitimate role model and real life urban legend for today’s misguided youth. A self made entrepreneur, politician, community activist and leader, Ward is a native of Chicago’s Altgeld Gardens, one of the toughest housing projects in America. The DVD chronicles his street life, criminal enterprises and rise to a life of rightful endeavors with Atlgeld Gardens serving as the backdrop. A vivid and heart wrenching testimony to the laws of survival and success, “Gangster with a Heart of Gold: The Noonie G Story” was produced by Block 8 Productions and directed by Coodie and Chike who are best known for their music video work with hip hop artists Kanye West, Pit Bull, Lil’ Jon and Mos Def. Award-winning journalist Adam Matthews helped shape the film’s narrative and wrote Common’s script.
While the film captures and portrays the essence of gang life in Chicago, Ward’s life growing up, family ties, imprisonment, his rise in the Gangster Disciples and his transition out and beyond, the book is a more personal narrative from Ward offering straight from the streets life advice and motivation.
Ward’s personal story is an encouraging tale. The former gang leader has completely transformed his life and dedicated his path toward making a way for others to follow. Political prisoner and founder of the Gangster Disciples, Larry Hoover, hand picked Noonie Ward to implement a new direction of change and betterment for the community at large, with “Growth and Development” becoming the new battle cry.
“Street violence is not going to go away overnight,” Ward acknowledges. “It is difficult to understand what these young people are dealing with if you haven’t been there and lived that life. I’m not proud of my past, but it is what it is and because of it, I now have a unique platform to engage the possibility of change. It crushes my heart to know that it’s a war zone out here. Every time a child is killed, a part of me dies with them. I’m a soldier out here now trying to make a change. If my personal story can help someone then I know God is using me and I’m a better man more for it. I’m giving away my books and DVD’s to help get the word out on the streets that there is a better way and we have got to end the violence.”
Ward is serious about pulling others up with him. Utilizing the hip hop community as his vehicle, he has garnered a list of noteworthy accomplishments to his credit over the years. He actively engages the efforts and support of several hip hop luminaries. Cee-Lo, from NBC-TV’s “The Voice” made a personal appearance at Ward’s Chicago book signing recently. He partnered with recording artist Trey Songz to create the Songz for Peace Foundation, joined with rapper/actor T.I. to speak to youth in schools and hosted a toy drive for Chicago children with hip hop artist Wakka Flaka.
Ward’s early accomplishments include working with President Barack Obama as an activist in Altgeld Gardens, and organizing Chicago’s first National Gang Summit for Peace attended by Russell Simmons, NFL legend Jim Brown and Minister Louis Farrakhan.
As a true product of the street life, Ward possesses the unique ability to connect with youth on a genuine level. With contracts granted to him by Arne Duncan, the U.S. Secretary of Education, he regularly visits local high schools speaking to the students and conducting workshops about violence and various life issues. Determined to implement change, he has ran for the political offices of City Alderman, State Representative and Cook County Commissioner in Chicago.
Harold “Noonie G” Ward can be reached via twitter at https://twitter.com/therealnoonieg ( @TheRealNoonieG ) or via his Facebook fan page, “The Real ‘Noonie G” at https://www.facebook.com/pages/The-Real-Noonie-G. “Gangster with a Heart of Gold: The Noonie G Story” both the DVD and book are available on Amazon.com.
Check out the film’s trailer at http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tsHw51S2mRs.