"LAMONT -THE VOICE- COX" by Wanda Armstead Smith

...A Story of Poetic Redemption...

Many Kinstonians feel they have to move away for better opportunities. Lamont Cox has joined hundreds of others who share this sentiment. However, he didn’t leave Kinston because he doesn’t care about making a difference there because in many ways he still does. He simply feels that as a writer/poet, he would need to set his sails in a bigger sea if he is to reach his ultimate goal of some day earning a Pulitzer Prize, having his literary works published in major medias like New York Magazine or perhaps even be on the New York’s Best Sellers list.

Born in Greenville, North Carolina Cox lived in Kinston for 14 years. Unfortunately, like many talented artists in a small town, he began to feel he was a big fish in a little pond. “I’m not content! I want to be a medium fish in a big pond and soon to become a shark!” Cox says. And after careful consideration, he recently set off with his family in a courageous move to conquer Charlotte, North Carolina. “I’m taking the city by storm-MY WAY and making my presence here. I just want to make my mark!” he explains of his decision to move. “I just want to do great American literature that gives me vitality. I want to ultimately become one of the greatest writers in history; hopefully before I die. That’s my dream!” says Cox.

Many in Kinston have come to know Cox as “The Voice”, a name that was actually bestowed upon him as a joke during one of his past performances. His reputation as a talented poet and author afforded him other opportunities to showcase his love for the arts. Until recently, he hosted “Poetry & Jazz Night” at Sade Entertainment Complex, was a guest host for “Open Mic Night” at Illusions (held at the Kinston-Lenoir County Performing Arts Center) and Co-hosted for “3 G’s”, an internet radio talk show. One of his latest projects includes his role as Co-host of “Voice of the People”, a live-audience filmed television show that was created and produced by KinstonTV. Cox says he will continue to return to Kinston on the last Sunday of the month for filming. “I set up interviews with business owners, entertainers, singers, dancers as well as local politicians” he says of the TV show.

Cox admits he has not always been the man people have come to know and love. During our interview, he shares a powerful story of redemption and a testimony that has touched even the hardest of criminals. He shares how when he moved to Greensboro years ago, he was a stick-up kid robbing banks all over eastern North Carolina. However, he was eventually caught after someone snitched on him and he later turned himself in at the advice of his mother. “I went to federal prison and was locked up from 1/29/95-4/15/98. I would hit the bank (in Grifton, NC) at 4:30pm and was on the bus back to Greensboro, North Carolina at 7pm, with gun, money and all!” he shared candidly. “I never bothered anybody; I wasn’t a trouble maker, but my reputation preceeded me. Whenever I would come to Grifton to visit my family, I would be walking down the street and phone calls would be made to see if I had a beef with somebody when I was in town! They knew I was a stick-up kid but not about the banks. People would cross the other side of the street in my own neighborhood. That is not cool to have people afraid of you” he says. But he says he was somewhat of a Robin Hood. “If I knew somebody needed help, like a lady I knew with kids that had no food. I would go by and slip her some of the money (stolen during bank robberies).” While in prison, he would become the jailhouse poet! "I used to write letters and poems for inmates” he shares. In fact, he was turning over work in record time, earning money doing this. His fellow inmates, some who were hardened criminals, were so impressed with his writing skills they would hire him to write for them. “I would sit them down and ask them questions so it could come from them in case someone asked about it. And 20 minutes later, I was like-here you go!" At 21 years old, 6'1 and 160 pounds, they didn't know what to make of this J.J.-from Good Times-looking guy with 15 hairs on his chin. "This skinny dude robbed banks?" they questioned in disbelief. But to them, he was cool. "I was one of them!" Cox adds.

As a youngster, Cox spent most of his time growing up in Grifton, North Carolina. In fact, he spent the first 5 years of his life mostly with his grandparents, as his mother worked 3rd shift. There was no cable so he became very creative and developed a wild imagination. “I was making up stories when I was 3 or 4 years old. “I was fighting dragons and I would come and tell them ridiculous stories but nobody ever curved it. They would always listen and help me with my adventures” he recalls of his family’s support. The wisdom of his grandmother would leave a lasting impression on him. His grandmother always told him “words were very powerful.” After he realized she was not referring to super powers, he began to see he had something that most kids didn’t’, he was discovering his gift--The Voice. Cox had a high aptitude for reading. “I read on a 3rd grade level in the kindergarten! And I never failed a vocabulary test” he says proudly.

Cox’s journey would take him on a different path as a teen. “When I was in grades 9-12, if I had said I like poems in an urban surrounding I would be ostracized! Guys didn’t talk about poems but basketball and rap was ok” says Cox. Ironically, it would be his best friend—a drug dealer known on the streets— who would become his biggest supporter and ultimately save his life in spite of his own. Cox would gain street validation for his writings through his friend. “He would put me on speaker phone while on the block and ask me to read something.” He recalls how one day while hanging out with his friend, he would read his poems to him. He paints a vivid picture of riding shotgun while his friend dropped off a few deliveries to his street customers. Focused only on his writing material he recalls, “I had my laptop and the whole day he had me reading my stuff.” His friend was so blown away by what he heard, he later came to see him perform. “Dude, this is your way out! You can do this!” his friend pleads. That night his friend would round everybody in 3 to 4 cars to go see him perform. This lead to a pact he made with his friend that would change his life. “We had a deal. If he left the streets alone, I would do everything to pursue writing 100% with everything I got, but only if you walk away from the drug game”, he says to his friend.

The two, who were close as brothers, kept their promise and made strides towards pursuing their dreams. Cox was writing and performing regularly; while his friend pursued a business venture with plans to buy-in to a sports bar in Greenville, North Carolina. Sadly on New Year’s Day in 2009, his friend lost his life after falling asleep at the wheel. Cox recalls how he felt during that dark time. “I was devastated and went into a deep depression!” However, he knew he had to move forward as his best friend and family would want him to. Dusting himself off from the loss of his friend and his grandfather, Cox is now dedicated more than ever to living out his dream. “I got caught up in the streets but now I want to redeem myself. Yeah, I’ve paid my debt and I’m paying my dues in my life. I don’t have to wait 10-20 years. I want to have it all! Why can’t I?” he asks.

Cox has a powerful testimony of hope and redemption. He has been using his “voice” as an inspiration to others who want to follow their dreams. He especially wants to help those who are afraid to pursue writing or other careers that are considered taboo. “I want to inspire kids who even want to be dancer or a girl who wants to pursue football. I want people to know there are other ways out of the hood than just sports and rap. I want them to know it’s ok and to not be afraid to be different—It’s cool!” says Cox. He had the chance to speak with students in an English class at Parrot Academy. More recently, he had the pleasure to speak with some of Kinston’s youth during an event at Holloway Center. When he’s not performing, Cox shares his collection of endless short stories and poems with his fans on his Facebook fan page. He’s currently working on a new fiction novel that he has been perfecting for four years with the focus of writing engaging stories people can relate to like those of some of his favorite authors, Edgar Allen Poe, Langston Hughes and Ann White. He is amazed how he is also helping people through his testimonial writings about his depression, inspiring others to seek help. But overall, he plans to keep his promise to his deceased best friend and himself to never go back to prison, but to make something of his life. He hopes to leverage his experiences and build his fan base. “I’m just being me! I’m going to evolve so just hold on for the ride! I want to be a better person, a better man, a better father, a better husband,“Cox concludes.



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Photo Credits:
Bud's Photography
Geekboi Productions
D. Terrell Photography







Comments

  1. Outstanding Post!! 'Mont is a true treasure from Kinston! God Bless you Bro! Keep pushing!.

    ~Marty Kornegay

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  2. Great story!!!! Very well written, not to mention lots of great quotes! And Im not just saying that bc I got photography credits; Great work guys...

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  3. Keep up the good work know in your heart and mind that your past is and will not be your future it is simply a remember of a struggle ,a dark time for you,but then came the light that made you who you are today

    ReplyDelete

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