“Freeway” Rick Ross used to run a multimillion dollar drug empire, earning $3 million a day at one point, but instead of finding success as a drug kingpin, he is now a philanthropist who devotes his time to promoting literacy and speaking out against drugs and violence. In a stunning turn of events, Ross is attempting to heal and rebuild communities that most likely suffered because of his activities as a drug dealer. In his pursuit of positive change and outreach, Ross has given speeches and lectures at a storefront church, rehab centers, halfway houses and prisons, high schools, colleges, community centers and even unassuming street corners.
When addressing why literacy is so important to him, Ross states, “At one point in my life, I thought I was supposed to be the biggest drug dealer in the world. Books really peeled my eyes open and allowed me to expand myself and be a person I never thought I could be.” Because of the impact of books in compelling him to change his life, Ross has now launched the Freeway Literacy Foundation. Ross states that the basis of the foundation is that, “we believe through literacy, that entrepreneurship, personal development and leadership skills can grow for themselves and their community.” Ross also states that the foundation will partner with schools, teachers, community organizations and entertainers to provide a solution for reaching people who are most disenfranchised and forgotten about by society.
Ross’s own personal story is impactful. At 28-years-old, he went to prison under a life sentence for his drug activity. Illiterate at the time of his incarceration, Ross taught himself how to read and write and eventually began researching how his case was handled. After reading more than 300 books and working diligently to get his life sentence overturned, Ross discovered that his life sentence was not handed down correctly. Instead of spending the rest of his life in jail, he spent 20 years. Regarding his time in prison, Ross states, “I took prison and made it work for me. A lot of people go to prison and let prison do them, but I went there and I turned my prison sentence to college and studied.”
According to Department of Justice statistics, Ross was not alone when he entered prison illiterate. Some 60 percent of prison inmates in America are functionally illiterate. More than 10 million Americans who have reached the 12th grade since 1983 never learned to read at a basic level. Ross’s experiences have revealed to him just how much not being able to read and write can limit a person’s ability, and he believes that, “fighting literacy is literally fighting crime.”
For those wanting to know more about his story, Ross released an autobiography this summer entitled, “Freeway Rick Ross: The Untold Story.” He also has a documentary about his life coming out later this month entitled, “Freeway: Crack in the System.”