Article and photo by
Craig Barnes Jr.
Carolina Men Guest Author
Wearing a floral pattern shirt, camouflage hat and black pants, Jumail Blount reminisces about his tough upbringing. He says his hardworking mother, Ruby Ann Blount, encouraged him to take over the world everyday and that his father, Ben Mitchell, often showed him the roads not to travel upon.
Still, growing up in a low-income, drug and crime-ridden neighborhood in Greenville, N.C., Blount often found himself in a tug-of-war between street life and education. To avoid the former, Blount gravitated to the South Greenville Gym.
A love of sports was just the beginning and led to an entrepreneurship and community involvement.
Blount, labeled academically gifted throughout middle and high school, became the focus of many jokes.
“I had to master the idea of being cool. In my neighborhood, being a nerd was frowned upon,” says Blount.
The jokes were quickly forgotten due to his basketball prowess. Playing for J.H. Rose high school under Coach James Rankins, Blount turned into a local star. He earned a commitment to play at North Carolina Central University.
But, after a knee injury and staph infection, his playing career ended.
“I wanted to play college basketball but, once diagnosed with the infection, I fell in love with the idea of being an entrepreneur,” says Blount.
Returning to his community, Blount started a clothing line, HavKnot Clothing, and a carwash.
“The carwash was called R&R (Rags to Riches). I named it this because we used rags to get rich,” he relates with a laugh. “The car wash provided people from the neighborhood an opportunity to make money without selling drugs.”
Blount did not stop there. In May 2012, one of his childhood friends died prematurely from gun violence.
“I felt like a part of me died. People are whom they meet. People are whom they love. The opportunity to create new memories was destroyed so the only way to keep the memories alive was to create an event,” says Blount.
Taking place the first Sunday in June, the Honz & Pop Day event has been held three years in a row. Named after Juhahn “Honz” Belcher and Willie “Popstick” Smith, the event hosts at least 500 women, men and children at South Greenville Park to commemorate the lives of those lost to gun violence.
“It’s a difference between a death and a legacy,” says Blount. “This event is a way to honor and create an everlasting legacy.”
With the help of the local community and businesses, Blount provided free food, drinks and music. The event has grown each year and Blount hopes to turn it into a festival with clowns, rides and more.
Blount, also known as Deuce, has become a city commissioner, clothing designer, event planner, radio personality, middle school basketball coach and health insurance representative. He believes that leadership skills, economic prowess and education all empower him to make a difference for himself and others.
“My message to the youth is that you can make it out. You don’t have to settle for selling drugs or gangbanging. There are too many people who make it out and forget about the youth. It’s okay to be a product of your environment as long as it is a positive and productive one.”