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One good thing about America is that people are given second chances. Many people who have become leaders, businessmen and even politicians have been on the wrong side of the law. Many of these people have turned their lives around and now fight for positive change; and have become role models for people who grew up in environments similar to theirs.

Check out our list of the “Top 5 Criminals Who Turned Their Lives Around.”

5. Afrika Bambaataa

Afrika Bambaataa was a gang leader in the South Bronx for the biggest gang in the area, The Black Spades. After he won a trip to Africa due to an essay he wrote, he came back with a new philosophy of peace and community. Bambaataaa would form the Zulu Nation and become one of the founding fathers of Hip-Hop.

4. Judge Mathis

Judge Greg Mathis was a member of the notorious Detroit street gang, the Errol Flynns. At age 17, he was incarcerated after being arrested several times. After his release, Mathis went to college where he became a campus activist; and he was later elected a superior court judge for Michigan’s 36th District.

Today, Mathis hosts his own television show.

3. Jay-Z

Shawn Carter, also known as Jay-Z, was a drug dealer in Brooklyn’s Marcy projects, according to his own admission in interviews and recordings. Jay-Z would put his tales of hustling into music, becoming a rapper and businessman.

Today, Jay-Z is a respected businessman, part owner of the soon to be Brooklyn Nets, record label executive and club owner.

2. Kweisi Mfume

Kweisi Mfume was a high school drop out and teen parent of five children. Mfume would work four jobs and spend his time on the street corners of Baltimore hanging out drinking.

“Not only did I run with all the worst people, I became the leader,” he recalled in U.S. News and World Report.”I was locked up a couple of times on suspicion of theft because I happened to be black and happened to be young.”

Mfume would get his high school diploma and enroll in college, later getting his Master’s from John Hopkins University. He would go on to be elected to the Baltimore City Council, congress, and later become president of the NAACP.

1. Malcolm X

Malcom X was born Malcom Little in Nebraska. He would spend his teenage years and twenties hustling in Boston and Harlem, eventually being sentenced to eight years in prison for burglary. While in prison, Malcolm discovered the Nation Of Islam and converted, becoming one of its biggest leaders after release becoming one the most significant Black leaders of the 20th century.

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