HAMPTON, Va. (WAVY) – Khali (pronounced ca-LAY) Muhammad, 42, has spent his entire adult life behind bars.
In 2000 he was a wanted man for murder, drugs and gun charges. Today he wants to help children in the North Phoebus section of Hampton. Muhammad and his sister Cheryl Pyatt are the founders of Road to Justice.
“He knows they can’t come in to see him so how can I [Muhammad] go out there to them,” said Pyatt, speaking on her brother’s behalf.
The siblings grew up in Hampton, and they witnessed how the decades of problems associated with poverty have left a generation at risk.
“I think it’s almost like the perfect storm,” Pyatt said. “It’s low income, maybe lack of accessibility, and maybe a lack of transportation. You have some kids who are being raised in foster care and we actually have one family of five that just lost their home.”
Road to Justice has the support of parents, politicians, and police.
“Really bringing a program there [North Phoebus], that’s a consistent program where our kids would have somewhere safe,” Pyatt said. “That they can come to a place that can provide them with resources and provide them with services. That’s what we’ve been able to do.”
Once a week, children 13-to-17-years-old meet at the Phoebus Community Center, where they gather life skills and the tools needed to piece together success in life.
It comes courtesy of a man behind bars with a plan to atone for his previous life of crime, repair broken systems in the North Phoebus community and prepare the next generation to care for others.
“If we don’t take care of them now,” Pyatt said, “where is that going to leave us in 10 years, and in 15 years? We have to step in. We have to be the village. I don’t think there’s any other way for us to survive this as a community.”
Children and their families in North Phoebus, said Pyatt, lack essentials such as healthy food – even the pots, pans and utensils needed to prepare meals. Road to Justice recently launched a new program titled Feeding Friends.
This summer, the non-profit hopes to provide nutritious foods in a grocery store-style setting so that children can focus on positive behavior instead of the source for their next meal.
Muhammad has an 81-year prison sentence, but he is hopeful Gov. Glenn Younkin will grant clemency later this year. Pyatt said her brother is eager to return to society and hit the ground running in restoring the village.
Want to help?
The North Phoebus organization Road to Justice is in need of donations and volunteers so that no child in need is ever turned away from it. Contributions can be made via the organization’s website.