UNION CITY, Ga. -- Atlanta rapper Da Brat is using her own story behind bars to inspire local inmates at the South Fulton Jail.
Shawntae Harris, better known by her stage name Da Brat, spent two and a half years at Alto State Prison after pleading guilty to hitting a woman in the face with a rum bottle. Through the Ricky Smiley For Real TV show, she was able to sit down with the ladies face to face.
That’s a big deal because as a convicted felon she was never allowed to go back to the jail as a guest.
After Da Brat got out of prison in 2011, she promised herself she’d find a way back, next time through the front door.
“I’ve always wanted to go back and talk to women, inspire women and tell them they can. It’s OK to make mistakes. Just try not to make the same mistakes over,” she said.
Finally six years later, she retraced her steps.
“It feels so funny being in here just walking around,” she said as the Ricky Smiley camera crew filmed her walking down the hall.
This time she was walking full stride and was armed with wisdom and humility from her two and a half years.
“It was kind of an eerie feeling for me because I never wanted to be back in that situation, but this time I was on the other side, and I was hopefully touching somebody’s heart,” Da Brat said.
The women say it did. Sandy Reed, Tammy Rushin, Lasherae Davis, and Thelisa Ward are all incarcerated at the South Fulton jail. They were there the day Da Brat came by.
“Like you gotta look at it like it’s God trying to turn your life around,” she told the women in the episode.
“It was very enlightening because people can go to jail, and good people do bad things,” Ward said. “It gave me hope, and it gave us all hope.”
It moved some to tears.
“I’m grateful she took the opportunity to come here and meet us at our lowest point,” Davis said.
The most surprising moment was also bittersweet.
“What’s your name?” Da Brat asks during their Q&A session.
“Tammy,” Rushin replied.
“Hey Tammy. Oh my God!” Da Brat says as the recognition sets in.
Tammy was a familiar face in the crowd. She used to braid her hair when they were in jail together.
“I was just like what are you doing here? You should not be here,” Da Brat said.
But, it was the heart of why she came, to show love and send a message. So she ended with a prayer with hopes she’ll see them again on the other side.
“Let this be a good example to never want to come back, Lord,” she prayed as they held hands in a circle.
“Amen,” they all replied.
That episode of Ricky Smiley For Real will re-air again soon. The production company could not specify a date. In the meantime, click here for a clip of that episode.
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