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Chris “Champ” Napier will screen his documentary movie “Redemption Beyond My Past” on Thursday, Feb. 7, at the Ben May Main Library
After witnessing his father’s death at a young age and later embarking on a life of crime that included a murder conviction and years behind bars, Chris “Champ” Napier has found his true calling. Since his improbable pardon and release from prison in 2004, he has been on a path to redemption by sharing his story and advocating on behalf of those caught in a similar cycle.
Champ can be seen frequently at public events selling copies of his book, “Poverty and Prison: Frustrations Of My Past,” while speaking to passersby about his early life in Prichard selling drugs.
Recently he produced a documentary film, “Redemption Beyond My Past,” illustrating his life and what he learned along the way. It will be screened Thursday, Feb. 7, at 6:30 p.m. at the Ben May Main Library, 701 Government St., Mobile.
“Ever since I have been out I have put sincere efforts towards showing that I have redeemed myself from my past, but society still wants to hold the ex-felon, convicted murderer, high school dropout or drug dealer over my head,” Napier said earlier this month. The documentary, he said was motivated by a need to show younger generations of “the possibility to be alive and free at the same time.”
Napier said he strives to prove to others redemption is possible after conviction and to not give up, in spite of the odds.
Napier’s story begins with the shocking shotgun murder of his father, after which his life took a turn and he was left fatherless — and hopeless. Growing up, Napier often found himself making poor decisions and getting himself into unwanted trouble.
After years of selling drugs, one day a deal went wrong. Napier shot one of his buyers who had attempted to rip him off and the victim later died. At the age of 18, Napier’s world was again turned upside down when he was sentenced to life in prison. Although he was set to serve the entirety of his sentence, he was determined to rehabilitate himself and prove to himself and others it was not where his story ended, but rather where it began again.
Due to the strides he made behind bars, Champ was granted parole 14 years and eight months later, even receiving a pardon from the governor in 2015. While in prison, Napier educated himself by reading inspirational literature and seeking redemption through his Muslim faith.
Upon his release, he set out on a mission to educate others in similar situations, with goals to educate the community on such issues as gun violence, high school dropouts, drug use and mass incarceration.
Despite his freedom, Napier said he feels he is still being punished for the crimes he committed more than 15 years ago. He points out the biggest obstacle standing in his way is the box on job applications asking whether or not one has been convicted of a felony.
In the years since his release, Napier has done a number of things to show he has redeemed himself. He said he “mentored troubled kids, went to the state capital advocating for returning citizens so they can get their rights back, asked public officials and state representatives to remove that box from the applications, and I go to the jails to speak on a regular basis.”
In the coming years, Napier hopes to screen his documentary at each of the prisons he was held at and others, if possible, to demonstrate redemption is possible.
Napier also said he continues to be committed to bringing attention to youth engagement, community development and street outreach throughout the city of Mobile. By doing so he hopes to not only educate youth on how to avoid a life led by crime, but also start a conversation on why convicted felons deserve to be treated fairly and given another chance, and engage the community in supporting those in jail on how to reestablish life after prison.
For more information call 251-208-7072 or visit www.chrischampnapier.com.