From guns to press ups: How ex-gang leader changed his life into a force for good
Written by Hit Music Radio News on 22/01/2021
As a young boy, Terroll Lewis could remember guns and drugs on the kitchen table.
He was a good enough footballer to try out for West Ham but what he ended up with was a “bloodline disease”.
He became a member of a notorious Brixton gang – OC (Organised Crime) – and he believes this was always going to be the path he took.
“It’s not just hoodies and balaclavas, it’s deeper than that. It’s childhood traumas, it’s people searching for a sense of security and a sense of peace,” he told Sky News.
“I was exposed to violence at a young age, to domestic violence in my household – which affected me.
“I then moved to my grandma’s house on the Myatt’s Field estate. I became surrounded by gangs and by a community.
“It’s the norm to prepare to go to the shop, and if you don’t have a gun or knife on you, you’re naked. I was protecting myself at all times. I never saw any better, I never knew any better.”
He didn’t get taken on by West Ham but later became an apprentice at Stevenage Borough. Football was a way out of gang life, which he didn’t take.
“I had one foot on the pitch and one foot on the estate,” he said.
“At the time there was no money in football for me. I was in a college scheme, I was out of the area, the hard work was a lot but at the same time I wanted the quickness of life.
“A lot of my friends were living a good life living in the gold and glitters and I wanted to be part of that – get back to that.
“It took me down a path to put football to one side and being part of a gang.”
Back in his old life, he was making big money drug dealing, wearing expensive clothes, but never knowing what or who was waiting around the corner.
But after the death of another close friend on the streets, he remembers crying with anger like a “ticking time bomb” because he couldn’t track down his enemies.
That’s when he knew he had to walk away, or he’d end up dead too.
Ironically as Terroll cleaned up his life and put away the knives and guns, he was wrongly arrested for murder.
It was in his prison cell at HMP Belmarsh that he realised the power of exercise over his mind and body.
“I was doing press ups on the bed, working out with my wash bag, doing incline press ups with one foot on the sink. In my cell I used body weight training and that was my meditation.
“When I came out of prison I went to a mainstream gym where they were talking about direct debits – I didn’t know what they were talking about. I went to a kids playground to work out.
“I’d do pull ups and press ups and handstands. Then, I thought maybe there’s other people who don’t know about direct debits or can’t afford a gym membership.
“Maybe I should just go to a local park and join the vibe and invite people.”
People started training with him – gang members and non-gang members, 100 people at a time.
Block Workout was born out of his prison exercise routine and later he opened his Brixton Street Gym.
It’s for the local community and it’s as full of books as it is gym equipment – and food, because he still remembers what it was like to be young, in a gang and hungry.
“It’s a place of release – training is meditation,” he said.
During lockdown he wrote down his extraordinary story.
He hopes his book, One Chance, will help others from a similar background and give an insight into why a young boy could end up a gang leader, walk away and change his life into a force for good.
© Sky News 2020