By: Lisa A. Forrest
NASHID EDWARDS-Community Devotee/Enthusiast
Nashid “Butchie” Edwards, was a terror as a teenager and young man. He sold drugs, abused drugs and did many of the negative things that drug abusers do to get money for their habit; burglary, robbery, theft and deception. After being addicted to crack cocaine for 22 years, he just got tired of that lifestyle. He got off of drugs using AA’s, yes Alcoholics Anonymous’, 12 Step Program, and never looked back.
Fast forward to today, he is now the COO (Chief Operating Officer) of the community organization that we have created, and the most active member in our organization, Concerned Citizens for a Better Frankford. Our goal is to empower the community and its children through education, awareness and learning a skill to fall back on. He is also, his elderly mothers’ caretaker, and has primary custody of his 3 young sons. He has gone from ultimate “bad boy”, to a man of heartfelt redemption. He has come a long way.
Nashid is a short statured, brown skinned, 50 something year old black man who wears thick lensed eyeglasses. He is always neatly dressed and well-coordinated from his many baseball caps, to his matching sneakers, to his polo shirts. It’s almost unusual to see him without his three sons, unless they are in school. He walks with a smooth stride and never seems to be in a hurry to do anything. Although he has a lot on his daily agenda, you would never know it until he says “Are we done here? I have somewhere that I need to be”.
He walks everywhere that he goes, and that keeps him in good physical shape. He is well known throughout the community. You can almost always tell in what era a person knows him from by the name that they call him. “Butchie” is his nickname from a young boy. “28” is his Muslim name from back when he was a part of the NOI (Nation of Islam), more commonly known as the Black Muslims. They used numbers to represent their names and placing from when they joined the NOI. If you were the 5th John that joined the NOI in Philadelphia, then your name would be John 5X. The 5X replaced your last name which was a forced name from slavery/history. Or you would hear people call him Nashid, the name that he uses now to represent the man that he has become. He is no longer Butchie or 28, but he never corrects anyone that uses those names to identify or call out to him, because he says that they are still a part of who he is.
Butchie was always a “bad boy” in our neighborhood. He told me, to my amusement, that he became a bad boy because he was tired of one of my brothers bullying him. He told me that my brother used to pick on him and take his candy until he couldn’t take it anymore. So he fought my brother back one day, and they became friends after that. And that was the beginning of his bad boy days. Also, I might add, in order to survive without getting picked on in our neighborhood, you had to show that you were fearless. And one of the best ways for a kid to do that is to act tuff or do bad boy things. So his bad boy antics eventually sent him away, at the age of 14, to St. Gabriel’s school for boys. One of his assignments while there, was to do a book report on religion. He chose to do one on Islam, and decided that was the religion that he wanted to practice. When he came home after doing his time at the all boys’ school, he went to the Muslim Temple and converted to Islam from Christianity.
He became a member of the NOI, an American sect of the Islamic religion of different nations around the world, but mostly in the Middle East and Africa. The religion that he now practices devoutly, along with being an Imam (someone that gives sermons, marries other Muslims, oversees funerals, etc). Somewhere along the line while in his teens, Nashid picked up the drug trade to make money. He wanted the street life of nice cars, women, money, etc. And he also broke a cardinal rule of street hustling, “Don’t get high on your own supply”. He used and became addicted to the drugs that he was selling.
Butchie and I grew up as family, even though I didn’t know him well, but well enough to speak to him. His mother is my mothers’ cousin. I got married at a young age and left our community of Frankford for a few years. So I hadn’t heard anything about him for many years, until we connected on Facebook, a couple of years back, and became very good friends. We had many conversations about many different interests and concerns. During our conversations, I relayed my ideas of a desire to create an organization to go back to our home town and help to implement change. I could no longer sit back and watch as our community sank deeper into a cesspool of drugs and violence. He was on board from day one and was instrumental in helping me to organize our group.
So it’s been quite a few months now and Nashid has become the most active member of our group. He has brought to us the many concerns of the community and has acted on everything that has been brought to him. We support him in all that he does individually, as a group, but he has been going above and beyond because he is the only one in our group that actually lives there. So the people in the community come to him with all kinds of issues and he handles them, or gives direction as to how the person should handle it. One Sunday morning he calls me up to say “Lisa, I’ve got people knocking on my door 8:00 Sunday morning”. I laughed a bit uncontrollably, because that was the moment that I knew that he had made his mark as a community devotee/enthusiast. After I regained my composure, I asked “What did she want?” he had already let me know that it was a lady. She wanted him to know that she had a nuisance situation, and that she wanted his help. As we laughed together, about the seriousness of someone coming to his home at 8:00am on a Sunday, he let me know that he gladly gave her information to help her.
Finally, when I called Nashid up to do an interview for this story, I asked him a lot of deeply personal questions. And he never hesitated to answer not one. I have gained even more respect for the man that he is, because he is not embarrassed about the man that he was. That shows some serious personal growth. He says that our group has lit a fire under him that gives him joy in giving back to the community. The community that he used to be such a terror in. And I am so proud of the man that he has become.
About the author: I was born and raised in Frankford, but I now live in Boothwyn Pa. and have been living there for the past 12 years. I am a member of the Forrest family of Frankford, and many people knew my father, Doctor “Doc” Forrest. I am a 52 year old mother to three grown daughters, and 4 grandchildren (3 girls and 1 boy). I have been a retail store manager for over 25 years, and I decided to go back to school in 2012, to get my Bachelors degree in Business Administration. A journey that I am enjoying immensely.