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Man, there really isn’t any place like home. Ain’t that the truth?

I love Racine, Wis. It’s a small community of 81,000 people just south of Milwaukee. People with a lot of heart, strength and resilience. And those people — from my family and friends who once inspired me to fight for a better life, to the kids who have big hearts and dreams — are the reason I come back every year.

Growing up as a kid on the south side of Racine wasn’t easy. I wrote about my childhood last October in a story on The Players’ Tribune.  The love and support I received from my family and the Racine community kept me going, and I’ll never forget that.  Now I’m thankful to be in a position where I can use my platform for good and inspire the next generation of young leaders.

I’ve got only love for the people of Racine. Some of the most influential people in my life are pictured below.  This is for them.

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I’ve been throwing a block party in my hometown since 2002. There’s free food, music, haircuts and games, and I give away bikes to kids who have a GPA of 2.5 or better. Everyone here put fingerprints on my success. Racine is where I’m from. It’s my community. 

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When I was younger, I ended up in the Racine County Law Enforcement Center jail for three months. I remember family and friends always showing up outside my window while I was there, honking their horns and dancing to help keep me going. They told me to do the time, and to not let the time do me.

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The Bryant center is where I developed my love for the game. I played so much basketball there as a kid. It was my home away from home, and where my basketball career got its start.

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Mexico Lindo, a restaurant in Racine, was always my favorite. “Grandma” has been there for years. She always treated me with respect, and I’m grateful to her family for giving me meals when I didn’t have the means to pay for them.

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The love and gratitude I feel when I’m with my people in Racine inspires me. Here I am with DB, the rapper who won our rap battle. I love the fact that he gave his prize money back to the kids who were there. That’s what our community is all about.

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I do this out of pure love for my community. This isn’t a photo opportunity for me — it’s been important to me for years.

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