Manchester University
Oak Leaves

September 15, 2019

VIA Speaker Discusses 'Life After Drugs'

Erica Mohr


Monti Washington is one of the last people who would believe that your past dictates your future—he went from sleeping in parks and crack houses to becoming a writer, actor and a motivational speaker.

On Sept. 3, Washington gave a VIA titled “Life After Drugs” in Cordier Auditorium that taught students life lessons about how to rise against adversity. Washington seemed to have all the cards stacked against him: he was born to a prostitute, never knew his father and was bounced around from home to home. However, Washington’s VIA showed the audience how he overcame the trials of his life and gave students advice for how to face their own trials.

Washington commanded the attention of the audience before he even set foot onto the stage. He started out with a rap, freestyling from behind the audience so that although he could not be seen—he was heard. He slowly made his way to the stage, walking through rows and past members of the crowd, and when he got onto the stage what the audience saw was not a presenter in a suit and tie but was instead a young man who had dressed casually. Washington wore black pants and a black jacket with a white T-shirt under it. He also wore a red stocking cap with matching red shoes. Throughout the presentation he stood casually, pacing back and forth and often getting off of the stage to interact with the audience. One may expect a presentation titled “Life After Drugs” to be serious, however, Washington kept his voice light and his words causal, speaking to the audience as if he was speaking to a friend.

The biggest theme Washington stressed in his presentation was to have confidence in yourself. To do this, Washington did not lecture or give statistics; instead he interacted with the audience, walking down the aisles to get eight volunteers to come onto stage with him. Washington treated all these volunteers as though they were already friends, laughing with them and putting his arm around them. “Monti seemed to actually care and enjoy us being up there, said James Gilley, one of the volunteers. “He listened and understood where we were coming from.”

Washington had each volunteer speak into the microphone and tell the audience why they were, in his words, “the sh*t.” For example, when on stage Gilley said, “My name is James Gilley and I’m the sh*t because I overcame bullying at a young age.”  Another theme Washington put on his projector screen was “Real Friends—Who Has Your Back?” Washington once again engaged the entire audience by having everyone get out their phone and look at all the contacts they had stored. Washington explained how he believed there are three types of people: haters, fakers and takers. He claimed that if anyone in the audience knew someone who would fall under one of these categories, they should be deleted.

“By having us think about if the people in our lives were good for us and then giving us a chance to delete them from our lives made me want to participate in the activity more,” said Madison Haines, a sophomore public relations major. “He did a great job of telling us what we needed to do, and then showing us how to do it.”

Washington ended the presentation on a more somber note. He played music, dimmed the lights, and said things such as “Stand if you have ever been told to man up”; “Stand up if you have lived in a home with domestic violence”; and “Stand if you have ever been homeless or lived in poverty.”

“It really made me think about other people and what they go through, said Apolonia Edwards, a first year. “It also made me think about how no one is alone, because there was always more than one person standing.”