Derrick Taite is pretty up front about his checkered past when talking to parents and students in his hometown.
There’s been an uptick in gun violence there, and he hopes sharing his story will help steer young men in the right direction.
But he’s also doing more than talking.
The former Moss Point High Tiger was a standout football player who went on to start at Mississippi State in the 1990s and later in the Canadian Football League and with the indoor Mississippi Fire Dogs.
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Football gave him a lot in life. But then his life turned upside down — admittedly by his own doing — when he was incarcerated from Oct. 7, 2004 until Jan. 2, 2009 on a marijuana trafficking conspiracy conviction.
It was during that time, he said, that he came to a realization and turned around his life.
Taite considers himself “a second chance” and now he’s looking to use his life experiences to help his hometown by creating Moss Point’s 100 Men.
Taite told the Sun Herald on Tuesday he doesn’t sugarcoat “who he is or who he was.”
“A lot of kids want to know, ‘have you been there before?’ Yes, I’ve been there before. I’ve done everything you can possibly think about doing — and paid for it,” Taite said. “If I can get an understanding on that thought, then maybe I can deter you from making that decision.”
That’s where Moss Point’s 100 Men comes in, Taite says. The group is still very much in its infancy stages having only started just over a month ago.
“The call to action was the senseless crimes and shootings, the senseless robbing,” Tate said.
“I thought something had to be done.”
Taite, who also founded the nonprofit group Fatherless Sons four years ago, hopes 100 Men can implement change in Moss Point’s impressionable generation.
The mission is two-pronged, to help both parents and students.
“It starts in the household. You have to create a productive household to create productive kids,” Taite said. “We can pick up kids here and there off the streets and mentor them, but what’s going on when they’re not in our presence? We need other eyes and those other eyes start at home.”
Taite also has been working with GED, Job Corps and skills programs for Moss Point’s youth.
“How do you change a generation? You start by when the kid gains an identity, and that’s around the fourth or fifth grade, when the kid decides he doesn’t like playing football and wants to be a doctor,” Taite said. “When that kid gains an identity, that’s when a mentor can come in and really help both out, not just the kid but the parents.
“... By the time the kid gets in the 12th grade he’ll have been properly guided through the years. That’s how you change a generation.”
Taite believes Moss Point’s 100 Men has gained momentum with each meeting. After starting with only eight people in the group’s first meeting, the next three grew to 11, then 70 and then more than 100 on Monday night.
Next up is a “Keeping It 100” assembly at Moss Point High School, scheduled for 9:45 a.m. Friday.
“We’re going to show the town that we do have unity and we are coming together for a cause,” Taite said.
He said they also have worked to secure a summer program at the school.
“It’s to empower the kids and give them something to do,” he said. “They can come and work out, lift weights and run every morning and eat two times a day.
“Everybody needs it. Just for your mind, your body and your soul, period.”
Cal Ripken Baseball League
One group that’s already benefited from 100 Men is the city’s Cal Ripken Baseball League.
Last year, the Cal Ripken organization made its debut in Moss Point with 352 participants — a nice start considering it was the city’s first organized baseball league in three years. Registration this year has been extremely slow, with just 43 participants as of Saturday.
“I don’t want to lose that momentum,” said Chuck Redmond, who is the Ward 2 Alderman and also the vice president of the league. “I would hate for a World Series champion (Tony Sipp) to have donated all that money last year and then we don’t have a league the next year.”
Chuck Redmond said he’s hoping Monday’s meeting gives the league a shot in the arm as they raised $2,121 “in about 5 minutes.”
“My point was, it don’t matter how much money we raise, if we don’t have children to spend it on. At some point it was like a flood gate. It was amazing,” Redmond said. “I felt like a mega preacher up there.
“I just poured my heart out and it took all I had to keep from crying (from the donations).”
Redmond said the donations will go a long way toward covering registration fees, which are $55 and include a full uniform for the ages 4-16 league. He acknowledged the cost has been just one barrier to entry for the league.
Regarding the violence in Moss Point, Redmond said he has talked to Interim Police Chief Brandon Ashley and been reassured law enforcement will do “whatever they can to help.”
“We want to make sure when people come out they’re protected,” he said.