By: Evan Ward
Shamann Walton’s “From Juvenile Hall to City Hall: Your Resume Can Change” is one of the great biographies, celebrating the entire life journey of an American who started from sorrowful beginnings and hit rock bottom on the streets and in juvenile hall before reinventing himself. After reading the book, readers will gain a clearer understanding of how we have the power to change our lives, and that fate doesn’t determine all of our cards. The novel is both inspirational and educational, as all books should be, but it is also entertaining.
The book’s hero, Shamann Walton, was not raised by his biological father, but met a man named Philmore Graham, or PG, while attending his local Boys and Girls Club. Philmore Graham was not just the founder of the Boys and Girls Club; he played an active role as a mentor, life coach, and role model, serving as a permanent male presence in the lives of children under his care who missed that voice on the home front. Years later, Shamann himself would become a mentor and teach a variation of this theme to young men and women of all ethnicities and ages. But first, he had to go through a series of identity changes, conversions, and hard life lessons.
As a child, Shamann was a victim of violence, having witnessed firsthand his mother being abused by his father. Young Shamann was also forced to fight on the streets of San Francisco to prove himself to his family and peers. Initially, at nine years old, he would remain still and allow the other boys to punch him, but eventually, he started fighting back. He grew tired of life beating him down and decided he wanted to fight back. By his sophomore year of high school, Shamann was involved in dangerous activities, including carrying a pistol, stealing cars, gambling, drinking liquor, and selling drugs. The police caught on to his behavior and arrested him on multiple occasions.
Despite being in and out of juvenile hall, Shamann remained one of the brightest students in his class, and academics remained on his radar. He saw it as a competition of sorts. Alongside his troubles and quest for freedom, Shamann was a member of the Continentals of Omega Boys and Girls Club. This organization differed from many others in that it placed a strong emphasis on academics. It was founded by a man named Philmore Graham, also a member of the Omega Psi Phi Fraternity Inc. His vision was to create a safe space for young Black males to receive training based on four principles: brotherhood (later to include sisterhood as well), scholarship, perseverance, and uplift.
PG kept teenage Shamann preoccupied with odd jobs that kept him away from the temptation of selling drugs. Whenever Shamann found himself in trouble with the law, PG was the person his mom would call. Regardless of the hour, PG was always present to accompany her on the exhausting journey to pick him up. This happened not once or twice but countless times.
The book follows Shamann as he sheds his criminal past. PG handpicked him to attend an HBCU black college conference in Atlanta, Georgia, which changed Shamann’s life for the better. Upon arriving at the conference, he was exposed to a completely different world. He saw hundreds of intelligent black men functioning in a capacity that did not involve guns or drugs, and it was evident that they cared about their communities. Seeing all of this made him realize that there was another side to life that he had not known up to that point. Shamann decided that day to attend a historically black college and to one day serve San Francisco.
On May 18th, 1998, Shamann Walton received his Bachelor of Arts degree in Political Science from Morris Brown College, graduating with Cum Laude honors. After returning to San Francisco, he applied to graduate school and was accepted into the MPA Program at San Francisco State University. He enrolled as a full-time student, taking evening classes so that he could work a full-time job during the day. His love for education guided him into his next career path: running for a seat on the San Francisco Board of Education. Shamann worked hard to gain votes, but unfortunately, he didn’t receive enough to win the seat.
Winning in life is a matter of perspective, and Shamann did not lose sight of his ultimate goal simply because his name didn’t receive the most votes on a ballot. The loss caused him to dig even deeper and increase his level of intensity. He continued to work hard, forge new relationships, and make connections that eventually led to him winning the seat the following year.
On Tuesday, November 4, 2014, Shamann Walton was elected to the San Francisco Board of Education (BOE) and eventually served as its president. Four years later, on Tuesday, November 6, 2018, he was elected to the San Francisco Board of Supervisors. In between these two successful runs, he even found time to marry his long-time love, Talmesha Hamilton, on Friday, August 4, 2017, and became an official stepfather to her sons Damani and Dominic. On January 8, 2021, he made history by becoming the first Black man to serve as the President of the San Francisco Board of Supervisors.
This phenomenal book highlights the humble beginnings of a fatherless Black boy. From fist-fighting on the streets of San Francisco for respect to verbally fighting in the courtroom for the rights of San Francisco’s Black residents, Supervisor Walton’s journey is full of trials and tribulations that have made him the inspirational man he is today.
His story teaches the next generation that it’s not about where you come from, but where you’re going. You are more than your past. You can come from a fatherless, underprivileged household and become a father figure to dozens of young men and women. You can start your career as an undersized point guard and become the reigning Finals MVP Steph Curry. You can start your journey as a two-bit street hustler named “Little” and grow into the giant Malcolm X. And yes, just like Shamann Walton, you can go from Juvenile Hall to City Hall.