Convicted is a story that hits close to home. I am from Southwest Michigan , in the neighboring town of Saint Joe, which is mostly white. It was so interesting for me to read Jameel's perspective, who grew up in the neighboring town of Benton Harbor, which is mostly black. His life in Benton Harbor was a fight for survival (85). I found myself unable to put this book down as I processed the events of what happened from both sides of the story (a rarity in cases like this) and went through the many emotions attached to the story.
This is a story of anger, forgiveness, and an unlikely friendship. Jameel and his brother "ended up in some of the worst foster-care families in the world because [their] home life was so bad growing up.... Most of the misery [Jameel] lived through as a little kid came from [his] parents' addictions. [Jameel] hated drugs" (82). When Jameel was convicted for selling drugs, readers can just imagine the amount of anger he had towards the cop who putting him away in prison. However, Jameel "was tired of being alone" and eventually he "had to keep making an effort to connect with people every day" (109).
"Most of the people selling dope in poor communities like Benton Harbor do it because they don't know any different and don't have any other options. The schools are bad. The jobs don't pay a livable wage. And the drug dealers drive the best cars in town. Poor kids see this and figure it's the only way to get ahead" (177). Benton Harbor residents do not trust the police department, and this book shows the pressure of being a cop and the corruption that can happen within the department.
It did give me a renewed hope that the Church can be an agent of change for our culture in the area of racial reconciliation. I know Brian Bennett and Overflow Church and love what they do for the community of Benton Harbor. It is refreshing, having lived in this area and seen the divisions for so long now to see a place where everyone is welcome. Jameel and Andrew are leading the way in difficult conversations and are true examples of being Christ followers - not only following when it's easy, but following Christ no matter what.