RICHMOND, Va. -- Four years ago, Earnest Purvall had a vision of how he was going to turn his life around. It came to him in the most unlikely place.
The Richmond native is the founder of B.U.L.L.I.
A clothing line with a message.
The organization embraces teens who are feeling peer pressure and the target of bullies.
“Nothing wrong with being yourself or being different. Stand away from the crowd,” Earnest said.
The 30-year-old father doesn’t want young people to make the same mistake he did.
“When the judge issued the sentence, I didn’t hear it because I was in a state of shock,” he recalled.
Earnest was convicted of attempted murder and armed robbery.
He was just 16.
“I missed my whole childhood from the age of 16 to 29," he said. "I basically grew up in prison."
Earnest was sentenced to 73 years with 61 suspended.
“The 12 years I served were quite possibly the worst 12 years anyone can do,” Earnest said.
Letting down those who loved him most cut deep.
“My father and mother didn’t raise me to be no criminal,” he said.
In the middle of his 12-year stretch, Earnest decided when released he would be an agent of change.
“So, that is why I’m out here serving these different communities and let these kids know I took that dead-end route. I’m letting them know it is OK to be different,” he said.
Earnest hopes his encouraging words and t-shirts resonate with young people following the crowd.
“Stay in school. Education is everything. Just know those guys that you’re hanging with are not your friends,” Earnest said.
As his organization grows Earnest is hiring young men in his neighborhood emphasizing self-improvement and showing there is a better way.
“Right now my focus is on the kids because those who are young and don’t have a voice I want to let them know I have your back,” Earnest said.
For nearly half of his life, he was living a nightmare. But now Earnest Purvall is inviting others to follow him down the right path.
“See dreams do come true,” Earnest said. "At the end of the day, I have a lot of youth depending on me, looking up to me. So I can’t let them down. I’m going to lead the way."
Earnest Purvall recently became a father and works full time at UPS.
He usually sells his shirts most afternoons at White Oak Shopping Center on Laburnum Avenue.
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