THE BLADE/JETTA FRASER Enlarge | Buy This Photo
On Father's Day last year, Kwame Kilpatrick wore prison garb during the two hours he spent with his father.
This year, his father, Bernard, was one of many who packed the pews at Worship Center, 2204 Collingwood Blvd., to hear his son speak about his time as Detroit's youngest mayor, his experiences in prison, and his reconnection with God.
"I don't have any expectations," Darlene Jackson, a member of Worship Center, said prior to Kilpatrick's speech. "Whatever message he has about his experiences that can reach young people, I'm ready to hear it."
On a raised stage surrounded by glittering purple banners that read "Come and Worship the King" and "Our God is an Awesome God," Kilpatrick was met by raucous applause and laughter throughout his candid talk.
Kilpatrick was elected Detroit's 60th mayor in 2001 at the age of 31 and was re-elected in 2005. "From the time I was 10, that's all I wanted to be," he told the audience. "But when I got [to office] it was plain old, old-fashioned stress. I was stressed out every day. I was doing well for the city of Detroit but was neglecting my wife, my children, and the church."
In 2008, Kilpatrick was found guilty of obstructing justice after falsely denying extramarital relations with his chief of staff, Christine Beatty, on the stand in a civil trial. A series of elicit text messages exchanged between the two was uncovered and published in the Detroit Free Press. The civil suit cost Detroit $8.4 million.
"I had a moment where I could have done right and I did wrong ... many of us are here this Sunday because we found ourselves in the wrong place at the wrong time," he said on Sunday. "All over the world I was an adulterer and a liar -- I'd never found myself a failure before."
Kilpatrick served 99 days in prison but was sentenced to a second prison term in 2010 when a judge ruled he had neglected to report assets and turn over tax refunds that were meant to go toward restitution owed to the city of Detroit. He was released from prison on Aug. 2, 2011.
Throughout his speech, Kilpatrick referenced a passage from the Bible -- 2 Samuel 23:20 -- that tells of Benaiah, son of Jehoiada, who killed a lion after chasing it into a pit on a snowy day. Kilpatrick described his regret as his own pit and said he thought his life was over when he entered prison.
"Before you kill the lion, you've got to chase the lion," he said of coming to terms with his sentence. He said that a turning point during his time in prison came when he began to write, producing what became his published book, Surrendered … The Rise, Fall and Revelation of Kwame Kilpatrick.
Kilpatrick encouraged audience members to be their own "lion chasers."
"Today, when you get out of here, make up your mind," he said. "Say, 'I'm not running -- I'm chasing lions.' You can no longer sit down and not chase your destiny."
Audience members, some of whom were not aware of Kilpatrick's background, said they were touched by his forthright words.
"It was heart-wrenching," said Lawrence D. Tribble, Jr., president of The Village 50 in Toledo, a mentoring program, and a member of Worship Center. "I appreciate his honesty. I think a lot of African-American men can testify to the struggles he went through as a father and a husband. He was very sincere."
Kilpatrick, who declined to speak to media after his address, signed copies of his book, which he sold for $20.
Contact Madeline Buxton at: email@example.com or 419-724-6368.