Pastor Jolinda Wade, the mother of basketball star Dwyane Wade, has taken a leading role in speaking out about gun violence in Chicago.
Jolinda was already a passionate voice on the issue before her niece, Nykea Aldridge, was gunned down while pushing a baby stroller outside a Chicago-area elementary school. Donald Trump has sparked controversy with his tweets on Nykea’s death.
Aldridge, a mother of four, was caught in the crossfire after registering her children for school, Chicago police said. The shooting is under investigation, although police are talking to people of interest.
Jolinda Wade has used her own dramatic life story – including an addiction to drugs and incarceration – to try to uplift others.
Wade is holding a prayer service for Aldridge on August 28.
Here’s what you need to know:
1. Jolinda Wade Used to be a Homeless Drug Dealer but She Turned Her Life Around Through Religion
Jolinda and Dwyane Wade have been open about his mother’s past. “Jolinda Wade was known as an inmate, a fugitive, a drug user and drug seller,” said ESPN.
ESPN said she turned her life around and “got help and got clean” in 2001. “Along the way, she devoted her life to spreading the word of God, starting her first ministry while doing time in state prison,” said ESPN.
CBN recalled how Jolinda was once homeless and quoted her as saying, “I am staying in a building where there are rats the size of cats. Sometime you’re dope sick and you had to do what you had to do.”
However, she had an epiphany while in jail, becoming a Christian and studying the Bible, said CBN, quoting Jolinda as saying, “I cried like a baby and I kept telling him, ‘I’m sorry. I’m sorry. Forgive me Lord. I’m sorry.’ The cleansing just kept going and going and going until the healing took effect. And I looked in the mirror one day and I forgave me.”
2. Jolinda Appeared on a Panel About Gun Violence With Dwyane the Day Before Nykea Died & Spoke to the News Media About Nykea
After Nykea’s death, Jolinda spoke to the news media on the family’s behalf on August 26 outside the hospital where Aldridge was declared deceased.
The day before, she appeared with Dwyane (who was on satellite feed) at a panel on gun violence in Chicago.
“Just sat up on a panel yesterday, The Undefeated, talking about the violence that’s going on within our city of Chicago, never knowing that the next day we would be the ones that would be actually living and experiencing it,” Jolinda Wade said at the news conference on Aldridge’s death.
“We’re still going to try and help these people to transform their minds and give them a different direction, so this thing won’t keep happening. We’re still going to help empower people like the one who senselessly shot my niece in the head.”
3. Dwyane Wade Bought His Mother a Church After She Turned Her Life Around
Dwyane told The Associated Press, according to ESPN, “I respect my mother so much, from the life that she used to live and to see her today in the life that she lives. I’m so proud of her.”
Jolinda Wade also wrote a book called, “Divine Grace Behind The Walls.” Wade’s website says she “has participated in a domestic violence walk for children in Puerto Rico, establishing ties with politicians, recovery addiction alcohol center at Loretto Hospital in Chicago and she was awarded by the Chicago Defender for her faithful works in the community in September 17th 2011.”
She also has a weekly radio broadcast, which can be heard on 1570 A.M., that “is centered on changing lives and spreading the word of God,” according to her website, which adds that Wade’s “annual back to school drive provides essential school supplies to hundreds of Chicago’s school children.”
4. Jolinda Is Trying to Raise Money to Build an Empowerment Center & Is Described as ‘Kind’ & ‘Intelligent’
After Nykea died, Jolinda posted on Instagram, “Bless God For Jesus!!! The senseless killing that happen deep in my family today involving my sister Diann daughter Nykea?? Will not make me abandon the Mission. It shows me how much more we need the Empowement Center!!! If U want to Give!! $, material or your talents call 17736298867, if U r for real?”
The Black Chicago Woman news site calls Jolinda “intelligent, kind, passionate and above all, spiritual.”
The site says of the empowerment center: “Construction of The Empowerment Center is underway. Every age group, interest and need that a typical neighborhood experiences will find a space dedicated to them – senior citizens (Pastor Wade “joyfully” cares for her mother who suffers from dementia), a counseling center, gymnasium, and a music studio, and that’s just the beginning.”
5. Jolinda Grew up in a ‘Rough Neighborhood’ of Chicago & Dwyane Went to Live With His Father
According to CBN, “Jolinda Wade grew up in a rough neighborhood in Chicago. She excelled in school but desperately wanted to fit in with her peers.” She was the fifth of nine children, said Black Chicago Woman.
CBN said, to fit in, Jolinda started drinking in the 8th grade and then smoking marijuana. By the time she was 18, she had two children, said CBN, and, in 1977, she married Dwyane Wade’s father, having two more children, including Dwyane and his sister, Tragil, with him before they separated when Dwyane was only a few months old.
Jolinda told CBN that her life descended into drugs, including heroin and crack cocaine use, so Dwyane went to live with his father. However, it was there that he started playing basketball, says Biography.com. “Wade’s new environment allowed him to play basketball outside with his stepbrothers, new friends and father, who coached part-time at a local recreational center,” says the site.
Wade and his mother have a close relationship today.