“We don’t look like our struggle”— this is very true for Monti Washington. He came to Arkansas Tech last week as a guest lecturer for Black History Month. He encouraged students that no matter the situation or circumstance one can be successful in life. What people go through in their past does not determine what they will be in their future. He made students from the crowd go on stage and talk confidently about themselves and their personal background.
Washington has made it from streets of his fears to the stage of his dreams. Washington is a product of a one-night stand. His mother was a prostitute who was on drugs, and she gave birth to him in hotel room. Washington has never met his father, and he said he doesn’t even know if his father knows he exists.
Washington grew up in poverty because of his mother’s drug addiction; he literally grew up on the streets. He slept in parks, crack houses and homeless shelters for weeks at a time. Eventually, he and his two younger brothers were taken from their mother’s custody and placed in a group home. In three years, Washington lived in 12 different group homes. He lived in foster homes where he would receive physical and mental abuse from his foster parents.
“I got called stupid sometimes, at one point I thought it was my name,” said Washington. “When someone would say stupid, I would respond as though they said Monti.”
Being called stupid would lead to Washington taking special education classes until he was in the eighth grade, even though he had not been diagnosed with a learning disability.
In his second foster home, he was mentally abused. Two weeks into living in the foster home Washington’s little brother was playing and broke a glass plate.
“She cussed us out and put us in this room. I thought that would be the end of it,” Washington said. “Little did we know we would be locked in that room twenty-three hours a day for three months. Only allowed to come out to eat and to play occasionally if we were lucky.”
Washington started to question whether his life was worth living. He contemplated suicide on two different occasions.
The turning point in Washington’s life came when he was put in his last foster home. In his last foster home things were a lot better. From that point he had to make a decision, did he want his past to break him down or build him up?
He started to apply himself from eigth grade, where he made the honor roll, until he graduated high school. He went onto college, got a bachelor’s degree and a master’s degree, graduating magna cum laude. He even wrote his own book, “From The Streets To The Stage: 20 Ways Make It From The Streets Of Your Fears To The Stage Of Your Dreams.”