My name is SaulPaul. I’m an ex-offender. As an ex-offender, saying you’ve paid your debt to society is like saying you’ve paid your taxes. Your debt might be paid up for the moment, but if you keep living, more debt will be due. I wish I could paint a prettier picture, but I have the gift and curse of being candid. I am an ex-offender who was released from prison more than 13 years ago yet my stint in prison still affects my life today.
My previous prison sentence has dictated where I can live and where I can work since my release. Recently, I had to again check that dreaded box that asks, “Have you ever been convicted of a felony?” I’ve lived in three different states since my release, but that box follows me like that cloud of dirt follows Pigpen in Peanuts.
That box is like my arch nemesis. It has never meant me well. That box is a box. And that box wants to box me in. Deeper still, that box feels like an anchor. It wants to hold me back. It wants to hold me down.
Even crazier are the two blank lines that usually accompany “the box.” They most often are preceded by text that says something like, “Please feel free to explain your situation or circumstances surrounding your conviction.” That’s thoughtful. But the reality is, I can’t put the 20 years that lead up to my arrest and conviction into two lines. Two lines are not enough. But the two years I spent in prison were.
The two years I resided in the state penitentiary because I was convicted of four felonies were more than enough. Enough for me to never go back. Enough for me to learn that the system is broken and flawed and that the best thing for me to do is to stay away from it.
And stay away from it is what I did. After I was released from prison on parole, I focused my attention and energy on being successful. Success is different for everyone, but my definition of success included me graduating from college. Not just any college, but a top college. The University of Texas at Austin. And through much hard work and due diligence, I graduated from that university...with honors.
Since college graduation I have become a productive citizen who contributes to society. Initially I was gainfully employed working at a TV station, but eight years ago, I resigned and became a business owner. I sell hope.
I’ve taken my unique story and crafted it as a universal message of inspiration. I took my lemons and made lemonade. I’ve impacted hundreds of thousands of people through my music, movie, book, magazine and motivational speeches.
I now travel across the country as a Musician with a Message. (www.amusicianwithamessage.com) Part Musician/Part Motivational Speaker. To quote my song On The Front Page, “Now I make a living helping everybody else.” (www.soundcloud.com/saulpaul/saulpaul-on-the-front-page)I tell my story because I believe in the power of the truth. The truth set me free. Yes, I made mistakes. But yes, that is my past. I must live in this moment and dictate my future with the choices I make now.
The most beautiful part of the picture I paint is this...Anyone can succeed if that is what they desire to do. No one said it would be easy though. The fact of the matter is that it will be hard work. But hey ... That’s life. You only get one. You might as well make the most of it.
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It’s safe to say Adam “SaulPaul” Neal, 35, has come a long way since his youth growing up in “one of the worst ghettos in Houston.” Raised primarily by his grandmother, SaulPaul grew up without much supervision around a lethal mixture of drugs, violence and street life.
Prison was almost a family tradition. In fact, every male in his family had either been to prison or is currently serving time behind bars.
After landing an academic scholarship to the University of Texas at Austin, SaulPaul thought he had rewritten the family narrative. But within a few years he found himself on the receiving end of a ten year prison sentence.
After serving two years of a ten year sentence SaulPaul “miraculously” earned his freedom, worked his way back into the University of Texas, and regained his footing on his path of redemption.
Today he describes himself as a “Musician with a Message.” He travels the country to speak with at-risk youth and youth in general about everything from life skills to gang prevention.
His stylistic blend of hip-hop, street cred and guitar strumming offer common ground between him and much of the youth, but prison and music are a just a handful of the experiences behind his playful smirk and casual demeanor. He has authored a book, starred in an independent film, and in the process carved a unique career path - somewhere between “executive director” and “street tuff.”
“The audiences vary but the mission remains the same...Change the World. One life at a time.”
To learn more about SaulPaul visit. www.amusicianwithamessage.com.