An exclusive interview with Thelma Wright,
Gangster Queen of Philadelphia
By: Crystal Victoria
By day, Thelma Wright was a loving mother and entrepreneur. By night, a notorious drug lord, dubbed by the Biography channel as Philly’s Gangster Queen. In the early 80’s, Thelma met and fell “crazy in love” with Jackie Wright who introduced her to the street life and the drug game. After years of marriage, Jackie was brutally murdered leaving Thelma the challenge of taking over the drug game. While juggling a small business, hefty drug deals, and her son, Thelma quickly became susceptible to the dangers of her illegal side activities. One day she made a decision to get out of the game for good, and before long made a permanent escape from the vicious cycle of drug dealing.
Today, years later, she’s a motivational speaker and positive mentor to young women in the Philadelphia area. Her vivid memoir “With Eyes From Both Sides”, has been adopted by the Biography channel for the show “Gangsters America’s Most Evil” and Thelma has appeared on numerous radio shows and in magazines nationwide.
Crystal Victoria: After watching your documentary on A&E, I was led to learning more about you and your story. Can you tell us a little more about your book, “With Eyes From Both Sides”?
Ms. Thelma Wright: Well, I had been talking about writing a book for over 15 years, due to the many layers of my life. The process began after being approached by an “A-List” actress, who wanted the option to purchase my story. Before moving forward, I had to be honest with my son, Jackiem, and tell him who is mother was in the past. He had no knowledge about things that went on with me. Jackiem knew about his father because I had told him various things about him over the years. As he got older, I told him more about his father, but I never told him about me.
So after the meeting with regards to the movie, I felt it was time to write the book, but it was first and foremost important to tell my son the truth about me. My son reassured me, that he was okay with everything that would be discussed. I didn’t really know how the book would be received, and there was a lot more that I could have put into the book. The response has been great, and I will be doing another book in the near future. “With Eyes From Both Sides”, is a story that was time to be told.
Before writing my book, I’d heard various things about my husband’s death and what went on, but it was time for me to set the record straight, it was a form of release for me.
Crystal Victoria: You overcame these obstacles as a young woman. In your experience how has this entrepreneurship journey been for you?
Ms. Thelma Wright: In my younger years it was pretty sweet, but when I decided to walk away from the drug game and go into the work force it became difficult for me. I’m sure a lot of women out here have experience what I’ve experienced in the work force. You just want to work and provide for yourself and family, but you’re met with all types of adversities. From prejudice to people acting in an adverse way because you wear nice clothes or you look nice, or whatever. It’s been difficult for me in the work environment. A lot of times it would cross my mind that maybe I should have stayed in the drug game. I was my own woman and my own boss. It just wasn’t a healthy environment; nor was it the right thing to do. It wasn’t a safe environment, and definitely wasn’t a good environment in which to raise my son. After writing the book, I’ve actually been treated differently and sometimes discriminated.
Working with women whom have transitioned from drugs, alcohol, and mental health treatment has given me the opportunity to see the other side life. I was on the side creating a lot of problems and contributing to a lot of problems. The women I work with have given me the opportunity see what was created from drug use and dealing. This is my way of giving back. I’ve decided to start my own foundation, “The Thelma Wright Foundation to Empower Women”.
It’s a lot that goes on with us as women, and black women in particular are met with a lot of adversities. Our number one concern is with being a woman, and our number two concern is with being a black woman. It’s been a bittersweet journey. But this foundation is something that I feel I must do, as well as motivational speaking. This is not just for women but for people who have been involved in the streets, in the game, and to help others understand why you should stay out of that lifestyle. Once again, it’s not a healthy environment for you, your family or love ones! You only have two options being in the game…death or jail!!! It is important for me now to reach back and to give back.
So often I get the comments, “Why didn’t you go to jail, or why weren’t you arrested?” Because I stepped out before that could happen. Eventually being arrested or going to jail was going to happen. People don’t understand about “Statute of Limitations”. There is a “statute of limitation” on everything except murder. Because I wasn’t involved with any murders my destruction came in selling the product. I never physically harmed anyone or had anyone harmed. I may have wanted to, but didn’t. I was blessed not lucky, but blessed that God was with me. I believe angels were sitting on my shoulders, and I walked away from the life not to ever look back.
Crystal Victoria: It’s interesting to hear your last comments because people have a tendency to judge others whom are honest about their past mistakes. How do you handle that and keep yourself in good spirits to move forward?
Ms. Thelma Wright: First and foremost, I understand that is to be expected. I understand that everybody is not going to embrace me. It’s really not important. Recently, I just lost a contract. This was a non-profit organization that was supposed to be empowering women. My documentary was re-aired October 1, 2013, they found out about it, cut my contract in mid-stream, and impacted my livelihood. It kind of knocked the wind out of me for a minute. I was like “Wow! Did I do the right thing? We’re human!” It’s only normal that you’re going to feel that way when situations like that happen. You have to understand that everybody is not going to understand. Everybody is not going to embrace you. They weren’t where you were, and so will not always understand how or why you got there. Maybe you don’t know why or how you did what you did at that time. I remember writing my book and feeling like “What the hell was I thinking when I was doing all of those things? Or how did I do that? Really!” But I did what I thought needed to be done. You will hear me say, “What works for me may not work for you, may not work for Mary, may not work for Jane”. Was it the right thing to do? No! But I did it and survived.
If we can tell our stories and help somebody else, maybe they will reconsider the negative thoughts of us doing what we did. If I sell one book, I’m happy; of course if I sell fifteen books that’s wonderful, but If I sell one book, I’m happy. I had a close friend ask me about the domestic situation, and why I wrote that in the book? I answered, “Because it happened”. So to answer your question, I just keep my head up, Crystal. I understand that its part of the territory. Some people get it, some people don’t.
Crystal Victoria: So are you open to mentoring also or just speaking engagements?
Ms. Thelma Wright: Oh Absolutely! I mentor and get calls all the time from the ladies where I worked as a property manager. I worked for a non-profit organization for four years, and that’s when I wrote the book. They still embrace me. I go over there about once or twice a month, and host “Power Hour” with the ladies. I talk with them, give out my number and email, and remain open and honest. In my older age, I’ve learned we don’t get everything at home. I came from a two-parent household and had loving, supportive parents, but didn’t get everything at home. There were two ladies that were mentoring me when I was working in high school. One was black and one was white. They didn’t have any children of their own and embraced me. I learned a lot of things from them, and my grandmothers. I learned from other ladies older than myself with modeling situations and etiquette, and various things. So to me, we as women should embrace each other, especially women of color. We have a problem complimenting one another; people don’t understand those things affect young girls. Self-esteem issues have a lot to do with decisions that we make. If we can embrace one another as our sisters and let them know that they’re cute, pretty and intelligent; they can do whatever they want to do if they put their mind to it. We should let them know there is somebody that cares about them. So mentoring to me is very important.
Crystal Victoria: What advice do you have for parents, especially mothers that want to explain past mistakes to their children in a comfortable way?
Ms. Thelma Wright: Something my mother told me about talking with my son about his father was “Do not tell him anything unless he asks you. If he asks you, you’ll know he’s ready.” My son started asking me about what his dad actually did, and what he sold in 2003. He was a sophomore in college. In other words you can’t just drop it on them. You have to pick your timing; you have to slow walk it. You will know as a parent when it’s the right time. Depending on what you tell them, you want them to be able to handle it. Never try to give it to them all at one time. Spoon feed them.
Crystal Victoria: How do we get your book and interact with you?
Ms. Thelma Wright: My website is thelmabwright.com, you can purchase my book on my site. You can follow me on Twitter, @ThelmaBWright, and my Facebook page link is facebook.com/ThelmaBWright. Anyone can also purchase the book at Amazon.com and BarnesandNoble.com, as well.
Ms Crystal Victoria
President of Target Evolution
Ms. Crystal Victoria Founder of Target Evolution Institute managed by EEMC www.EEMCEducation.com-
Target Evolution Institute (EEMC)www.TargetEvolution.org-
Target Evolution, Inc. www.CrystalVictoria.com
Author of “From the Streets to the Skies No Limits: Diary of a Boss Lady,” is her autobiography.
Transcribed, co-edited and submitted by writer Daood Obaid Aka Soul Detective