Asani “Bricks” Olubala Born Alfatine Alfred Franklin to Shirley Ann and Alfred Smith, Asani Olubala is on a mission to fight for change from behind bars. “Bricks,” who after much research, discovered his true origin and African culture, adopted the name Asani Olubala to pay homage to his heritage. Born and raised in Newark, New Jersey, Asani has been dealing with adversity since he could remember. Now, while serving a 38 year sentence in a state penitentiary in Maryland, Asani has dedicated his life to ensuring our youth don’t make the same mistakes that he did by mentoring and spreading social awareness on topics that go undiscussed.
When reflecting back on his childhood, Asani makes it clear that life was never easy for him. From the tender age of 5 years old, he was involved in the child welfare system which moved him all around New Jersey, from group homes to foster homes and eventually living with family. From prison, Asani reminisces on being an adolescent and finally having a chance to feel stability after moving in with his grandmother in the Hayes Homes section of Newark, NJ. However, that placement didn’t last long and Asani was moved again, but this transition would be slightly different. Asani’s mother, Miss Shirley Ann, who had been struggling with substance abuse for some time, regained custody of him after successfully maintaining her sobriety.
Shortly after moving in with his mother, Asani vividly remembers attending several elementary schools and getting into a lot of physical altercations at the various educational institutions that he attended. “We relocated to Chancellor and Union Ave. in Irvington, NJ but I always felt like an outcast. While my peers around me were focused on video games and the latest gear, my focus was drug dealing and gang banging.” Asani recalls gaining confidence as a ninth grader but accredits this new boost of self-esteem with him joining a gang and gaining both street knowledge and credibility. The Black Mafia was his first gang affiliation, and under the leadership of brothers, Man Man and CoCo, Asani was engulfed in the street life and gang culture. After being kicked out of Irvington High School for targeting and assaulting numerous Haitian students, Asani continued on a malicious path. The Black Mafia was just the beginning, but it did not stop there.
By 17, he was a full fledged member of the notorious 7 Deuce Mob Piru Gang that was known for wreaking havoc on the streets of Essex County, NJ since inception. Asani believes that his lack of family and a stable environment forced him to look for love and acceptance elsewhere. The gang became his family, and through that camaraderie and brotherhood, he finally felt the feelings that he had been yearning for all his life.
By 1998, he had asserted himself as a force to be reckoned with, but once again, moved with his parents, who at the time had decided to move to Hartford County, MD. Asani shared that even though he moved he still, “brought that same gang mentality and kept it going from Jersey to Maryland…which is where I’m now serving a 38 year sentence.”
Despite the circumstances, Asani has chosen to devote his life to making a change for the better. Currently he is mentoring black men, both young and old, from behind the prison walls and is also actively assisting with implementing and facilitating youth programs. His work is centered around positivity and change through “mentoring and advocacy.” As of right now, his top priority is to, “create and build mental foundations for the youth, both male and female.” Asani’s passion and plan are simple; help others through mentoring and sharing his own experiences. His words of advice to anyone in the struggle are to, “never give up or let another man or woman determine your fate.”
This ambitious and determined man hopes that the public can support him by promoting his positive messages to the next generation of kids. In closing, Asani shared one last message for the youth. He encourages the youth to, “always be respectful and courteous because it speaks on your character. Treat people how you want yourself and your family to be treated.”
Written by: By Corrine Jasmin
Follow Asani Olubala @AB_Speaks (Asani / Bricks speaks).
Thank you for your support towards my charity
Boys and Girls Club of Hartford & Cecil Counties- Edgewood Club