Absent Mentor

At about age 10, Quante Wright started his first salesman job, selling M&Ms for the Fountain of Life Church on South Avenue. He worked on commission, making 25 cents per $1 bag sold.

Later he cut out the church and bought candy directly from the distributor. He employed his sister and nephew, who would each sell up to two boxes a day.

Wright said his nephew, Dayvon Underdue, who is six years younger, was like his little brother. “I would watch out for him,” Wright recalled.

When Wright was sent to prison, Underdue was 16. By age 18, Underdue was charged with first-degree manslaughter.

Underdue was sentenced to 18 years in state prison in 2010 for shooting a 17-year-old, who had previously been his friend. A month after the shooting, the victim died in the hospital, according to news reports.

In court, Senior Assistant District Attorney Joseph Coolican said the 17-year-old had been following Underdue with a knife and had initiated the confrontation. Underdue pulled out a gun and opened fire.

Underdue is still incarcerated and regularly speaks with Wright by phone. Underdue grew up without a father figure, and Wright believes his own incarceration and being absent was partly responsible for his outcome. “He wasn’t guided right,” Wright said. “In many ways, I feel I am to blame.”

 

 

— By Ashley Kang, The Stand director