In spite of his blindness he talks tough. He is bold with self confidence. His black skin glitters, and the artificial five gold teeth in his mouth sparkle as he talks. Dangling on his neck is a golden crucifix. Not only this, his branded white T-shirt has T.H.U.G.G. inscribed on it . This is Bishop Renold Bell, an African-American who narrates his story from drugs to the pulpit. TAIWO ABIODUN met him in St. Louis, Missouri, United States of America recently.
He introduced himself
He started ”My name is Bishop Renold Bell. I want you to publish my story to the world that drugs or crime do not pay. I am now a Motivational Speaker going from communities to churches preaching against the use of drugs. I am a musician and also a publisher .I published some books among is T.H.UG.G Journey where I wrote about my life. I have been to jail 40 times as a result of women battering, drug, fighting , gun charges and many more”
I am the only child of my parents
In his baritone voice , he said ”I was born on December 26, 1972 in New York and I am the only child of my parents (Gerald Price and Miriam and I went into drugs early in life . My mother died at age 22 when I was barely six years old. She died from alcohol consumption” . According to Bell, alcohol brought tragedy into his life from birth to this day, he said ” It was my father who introduced my mother to alcohol . The two were alcoholics on the streets of Queens, New York .I did not know my father as such because since age 11, I had not seen my father till now. The last time I saw my father was in 1984 during my grandmother’s funeral .What really shocked me was that when I saw my daddy walk through the church doors to pay respect to grandma, I didn’t know how he knew that she had passed away, he didn’t look clean like others and was smelling alcohol , that was the last time I saw him till this day. And do you know that my father did not know I was shot and now blind or that he has grandchildren ?. I suffer mentally and everyday thinking whether my father is alive or dead’’
He spoke about his mother he knew faintly , his words ” When I was six years old my grandmother asked whether I would attend a funeral where family and friends gathered to view the remains of someone who was once living and that she was leaving this world and I may not see her again . She also said that that would be the last time I would see my mother again. I was confused because I didn’t understand., it was my mother whom I saw, she looked as if she was just sleeping and that was the last time I would see my mother.”
He summarised his relationship between him and his parents thus ”I didn’t know a lot about my younger life , except how they (parents) had me posted up at liquor stores. I would always see liquor bottles in my baby pic
I did not complete high school
According to Bell, he did not complete his High school , ”In fact, I had only six months to go , but I would rather hang out in the streets with my friends , drinking, smoking , and having a good time with the girls and selling drugs. I became Chris Bell the ”Stickup man” as I continued my nefarious activities . In the beginning of April 1991 I held up a man on Calhoun street , dug my hand into his pocket and asked him to give me his money and then fled to a friend’s place. The guy I held followed me , he called the police who surrounded the house to avoid me from escaping .The lady of the house let them in, and they found .38 Special gun in the house , but wasn’t linked to me because I never pulled out the gun out to rob the man but I still went to jail for battery. At another time me and my friend, Cedric robbed a drug house but when we couldn’t find the drug money we decided to take the two big concert speakers that I knew could bring some money. I sold the speakers”.
How I was shot in the eye at 18
Bell blamed alcohol for the tragedy that happened to him ” I blame alcohol to this day as I allowed alcohol to alter my mind and asked my friend to shoot me . Alcohol is no one’s friend and how stupid I was to get drunk on April 25,1991 and ask a friend to shoot me”. He said ”I was shot in the eye in 1991 at age 18 over drugs money. We argued over the proceeds of money realized from drug business, and the guy, Cedric asked me where was his own share of the money?’,. but I was drunk, laughing and kicking it, and I said to him ,”hold up!, don’t be fronting me like that, I’m going to pay you” but my friend hollered” I’m going to get half of what you sold” but I declined , and said I would give him twenty now and twenty later, after I had flipped the cocaine to make some more money. Already , I knew I was the get-paid man, so I already knew that he would agree to what I was saying ,but he took offence to how I was going to break him off.. He now in annoyance asked me to pack my clothes and my other stolen merchandise and leave his house just because I wouldn’t pay him at once. So I was upset because he knew I had nowhere to go, so I said ” it’s like you want to shoot me or something?.”, and he replied that it wasn’t a bad idea”. I told him ”then you can shoot me, get your gun and shoot me”.
He continued ” To my chagrin, my friend then went into his room and brought out a 12-gauge pump shotgun, then I said ”you really have the gun?”. , he replied in the affirmative. I said ” Well, use it! Shoot me!”. He then pulled the trigger, but the gun was on safety. I yelled at him that my name is Chris Bell, I am not scared”. Then I was 18 and he was 17. He pulled out the gun and I asked him to shoot me, and I heard gboooooo. It’s 32 years now that he shot me. The next thing I remember was waking up at the hospital six weeks later, coming out of a coma. I was in a coma for six weeks as I spent six weeks at the hospital and thereafter I could not see any more. I was in a coma for six weeks, my head was swollen like a pumpkin, I thought I was going to die, I didn’t see any more. When I woke up from the coma and asked where I was , and when I was told what had happened to me , I began to recollect every detail of the story , from friend, to drug money and when I asked him to shoot me .
According to Chris , he did not realize the severity of his blindness until when he wanted to watch the Chicago Bull Championship game , he said ”on the day of Chicago Bull , Lisa my pregnant wife was in hospital room with me and I told her to turn on the television in order to watch the game but she said it was on, and I told her to bring it closer because I couldn’t see it , so I told Lisa to turn it to another channel yet I could not see anything but again everything was totally dark”.
Living blind life
He narrated how difficult it is to be living without his sight ”Living blind life was stressful and frustrating. I would wake up in the morning ready to eat when everybody was asleep, I became a burden. My family members were helping me to dress up but I could eat on my own . According to Chris, he started eating bags of carrots believing the nutritionists who say carrots can make one regain one’s sight. ”After a whole year of eating carrots with no signs of improvement I removed carrots from my diet and started taking marijuana with the belief that I could regain my vision. but the marijuana didn’t last too long because all it did was to make me paranoid” . Asked what happened to his friend who shot and blinded him, he replied ,”The guy who shot me was 17 years old then . He went to jail but was later freed. .
Meeting his friend who shot him
Asked whether he met the man who shot him again, the Bishop said ‘yes’. According to Chris, he was on his way to Ozzie’s Club one day when he heard his name being called, ” the voice said ‘Chris, come here ‘,the voice sounded so familiar and when I asked who was calling ,the caller replied ,” Cedric”. It was the guy who shot Chris. They started chatting. Chris continued the story ” We drove to a liquor store and I bought a beer for him. We spent a couple of hours together but I didn’t bring up the shooting matter but he told me that he was sentenced to 15 years but he only served two and a half years”.
I went to jail 40 times
When asked how many times Chris went to jail, he started counting on his finger tips and said ” 91,92,93,94,95,96,.. I went to jail 40 times within six years. Before I got shot I robbed a man , I saw him on the street , I picked his pocket and started running , I was caught and jailed. I went to jail 40 times within six years before I met Christ. From misconduct, stealing, handgun and doing drugs. While I was blind I was still using a gun. I was thinking crazy . I had a gun and could shoot, if I heard your voice I would target where the voice came from. I went to jail when I beat my girlfriend. I was crazy .Even when I was blind I was still doing all those things , stealing, selling drugs and fighting. The Judge did not care whether you are blind. I never thought a blind man could go to jail but I went.”
My main message now is humility, without humility you cannot change your life .Accept Jesus Christ as your saviour. My message to anybody in the United States and Africa is humility. That is why I am sharing my story. I am now a Motivational Speaker speaking the truth and realities of life.
The Bishop said he is married to a Ghanaian, he said ”My family is in Ghana. I married a lady who already had three children . I met the lady on Facebook. I went to Ghana to meet her and I will soon go back to Ghana to see my lover”.
Blind man criminal
Despite his blindness, the man did not stop committing crime, he said ”In 1992 I went to jail for punching a bouncer in the face at the club. I thought I would not be in trouble being a blind man but I was wrong, I was charged to court and the Judge sentenced me to 60days in the Allen County jail. But my 30 days among the criminals was hell as some of the inmates were serving 60 years in jail. There was fighting, yelling, and a lot of criminal activities where they were locked up.
When I left jail I went into drug business again .I would wait till end of the month when I would collect Social Security cheque of 200 dollars in order to turn it to 400 dollars and hereby buy dope, but I got cheated because of my blindness as they give me less than what I was supposed to make, I got ripped off.. I stopped using pager because people would hear my voice. I put up with a sister whom I paid 150 dollars per month out of my 400, I paid her. I was happy because I could sell dope and drink so I don’t need to talk to a pager and call or receive calls from customers. Here I met a lady named Vette who became my girlfriend. Although I had a two year old son and she was three months pregnant with another man when I met her, that didn’t stop me from loving her. We loved each other.
”I went to jail again when two of my friends were fighting and a police was called but one of my friends handed a metal in my hands, when I felt what it was, a gun I dropped it on the ground and it fell on our feet , the police arrested me over the gun and since I had a bad reputation, I was charged and went to jail again, the Judge gave me 90days and a fine.
”When my old girlfriend Vette drove me around and I sold drugs, I kept the money with her the following day, I found out she was spending the money I had given her with another man, I was mad, so I called Tommy my cousin to pick me up, I had a gun and my cousin was not aware , he took me to vette to talk , I knocked her door but didn’t let me in so I pulled out my gun and fired shots through the window, then police were looking for me everywhere and I knew had to leave Indiana
I started going to church because the only things that I hit are drums, clippings, and beautiful voices and singing. In the church I narrated my story. I moved into my friend’s place, Terrance Cole, he was once shot in the head with a .22 revolver that made him paralyzed in his right hand and leg.
My name became popular and my story made headlines in newspapers like ‘If you let me live , I’ll serve you’, Ex drug dealer is now blind THUGG IV Christ, Pavement pounding gives way to national TV spot”. I was featuring a once in a month Show called Examine Yourself Live. This time I began to feel for Cedric who shot me. I started defending him when the Media asked questions about him. I also went to the Judge to have him set free, Examine yourself was hot that month because people didn’t want to see me help him. But I went as far as visiting him in jail for encouragement. I told him that I was on his side and that it was part of my project , CPT ( Change People Today). I did what I believed was right , and because of that God through my forgiveness started opening more doors for me by giving me the chance to speak to Communities and Church groups”.
How I changed my name
How did he turn a new leaf? The Bishop said ”I have countless testimonies that led me to where I am today. As I was praying in my home in Fort Worth , Texas God told me that Chris Bell was dead , and my name was to become BISHOP, I became a new person, I changed my name legally from Chris Bell to Bishop Bell. I went to Court on February 27, 2006, and the Judge granted me the change of name without a cost . On that morning of 27th of February, I stood before the Judge, feeling really weird, because I had not been in Court for a long time. I approached the Judge ‘s bench and he asked me why the legal name changed and I told him God instructed me to do so . With his approval, by his gavel hitting the desk, I became Bishop R. Bell, and my journey continues as the THUGG (True Homies Under God’s Grace).’’