PHILADELPHIA (WTXF) - Drugs, violence and jail were all part of El Sawyer’s life while he was still a teen and when he was sentenced to Graterford Prison it could’ve been the end. But when our Bill Anderson spoke to the now filmmaker he said that his experiences and his learned storytelling skills changed his life and now he’s trying to help others. For Goodness Sake.
“I was arrested about 30 times up until that point, I had failed school 3 times, I couldn’t read," he told FOX 29.
El Sawyer's younger years started in North Philadelphia with drugs violence and eventually an 8 year prison sentence when he was 17.
“Went away and when I came back I was home for not even 6 months or so and then I shot somebody,” he said.
An 8 year sentence hit El hard for possibly the first time he realized that his environment and his reality were seen very differently by others.
“This individual who robbed me and in the process of robbing me I shot him," he explained. "To me and my peers in my world that made all the sense in the world. To the Prosecutor I was the worst thing in the world.
Through volunteering and classes he found filmmaking while incarcerated. When he was released The Media In Neighborhood Group and movie The Pull Of Gravity have helped tell a story they feel society needs to hear.
Now years later, the team at MING continues to work on social change projects. Pull Of Gravity had such an impact that El was invited to speak with President Obama about ways to address recidivism and consults prisons on what the inmates face upon release.
“Ignorance is allergic to exposure. So pull of gravity is that, its taking away the fact that people can say I don’t know anymore.”
And although their primary focus is sharing stories to promote social change, the team at MING isn’t just talking about it, they’re trying to do their part.
To be clear. El doesn’t make excuses for his or others behavior, what he does do is ask us to understand that poverty, drugs, lack of education are major influences in most of the areas of highest crime and if we know that
“If we’ve isolated and identified and named our issues, what’s so hard about fixing them?”
A question for our leadership and each of us, For Goodness Sake.