“If you’re going to do it, do it. Don’t play because people will kill you,” House recalled his mother telling him.
For fear of being killed, the 13-year-old got himself a gun. He wore bulletproof almost all the time as a protective measure. Growing up as a kid, House saw drug dealers in his Racine neighborhood living a life of affluence and he wanted some. They flaunt gold chains and so many other aesthetic materials.
“Seeing this, every kid wanted (that lifestyle),” House told Journal Times. “We identified what represented wealth.”
At the age of 15, House would be at a juvenile detention center, dropping out of High School at the age of 16. When he was 18 he went to prison for the first time. That was in 1998 for cocaine possession. And in 2001 he went back again.
It was in prison and after reading The Destruction of Black Civilization by Chancellor Williams that House’s evolution to a scholar began. Before his first encounter with the law, House said he was so negative and was a bad influence on his friends, getting them drunk and in effect luring to destruction. “I’d try to corrupt them because I was so miserable myself,” he said.
House set forth to take charge of his life and destiny, rewrite the story of the African Americans who have since the millennia being discriminated against. House began to ferociously seek enlightenment in books – book on black history, philosophy, and anything he could lay his hands on.
That determination to retell the black story as well as assume responsibility of his destiny proved critical in him being able to receive his high school equivalency diploma while in prison, and found motivation and accountability in the Community Re-entry Program once he got out, Journal Times reported. He then entered the University of Wisconsin-Parkside in 2007 as a full-time student after being rejected from jobs with no work experience and two felonies on his record, graduating in 2011 with a bachelor’s degree in history.
House moved to Washington and gained a master’s degree from Howard, followed by his doctorate in 2019. His dissertation was titled “Toward a Black Economy: William Washington Browne and His Vision of Black Self Reliance, 1881- 1897.”
“I was able to utilize my mind to take me someplace, and that’s what I try to impress on a lot of the boys and girls who come from, not only from Racine but some of the lower socioeconomic communities that I work in,” he said. “Your mind can take you as far as you fill it.”
The former drug dealer hopes to serve as an example for young black boys and girls from Racine and across the United States. His paternal ancestors were to have come to Virginia in 1790 as slaves. They were part of the largest mass migration in the history of the nation, the Trail of Sorrow when Africans and African American slaves were forced to walk from the Upper South to the Deep South.
House’s grandfather was said to have been born in Mississippi in 1921 and moved to Wisconsin in 1951 to take advantage of the industrial labor jobs in southeast Wisconsin.
“In finding my family’s history, I found my place in the world,” House said.