His story sounds almost unreal, like the plot of a new feel-good movie where the main character beats seemingly insurmountable odds to achieve greatness and fame.
The difference, of course, is that this story is not on the big screen. It’s right here in Philadelphia.
Solomon Jones is now a respected politician, novelist, community leader and weekly newspaper columnist. His rise to the top of the ladder, however, wasn’t a completely smooth climb.
When Jones graduated high school in 1985, he came to Temple University to study journalism. He wanted to stay in Philadelphia, the city where he grew up.
As a Journalism major, Jones knew he would be able to be paid for something he loved doing: writing.
Unfortunately, Jones’ first attempt at undergraduate school only lasted for a year and a half before he dropped out because of a drug addiction.
Over the next several years, Jones moved from street to shelter and back again, trying to stay clean. During that time, Jones’ interest in writing was rekindled and he began to write for The Philadelphia Tribune, the oldest continuously published black newspaper in America.
He also wrote for Shelter News and Views, a paper published by the Ridge Avenue Homeless Shelter. He lived there.
In 1993, Jones decided to go back to Temple University to finish his undergraduate degree. While taking classes full-time, Jones also wrote articles for the Philadelphia Weekly, The Philadelphia Tribune, The Philadelphia Inquirer and Philadelphia Magazine.
If this wasn’t enough to keep him busy, Jones also worked full-time as a desk attendant at a condominium complex.
Between assisting residents and guests, he used his time in the quiet lobby to write his first novel, “Pipe Dream,” a story of four crack addicts wrongly accused of murdering a respected politician and on the run from the police.
His second novel, “The Bridge,” was published in 2003.
Jones attributes his dedicated work ethic to keeping it all together while juggling all of his responsibilities. “I was very serious about the opportunities education provided,” Jones said. “I realized the importance of going to school. At that time, I had had an addiction, had a job, lived a little. I was ready for everything I had to do.”
And that certainly wasn’t everything. While Jones was at Temple, he met his future wife, LeVeta. They had been classmates in high school but had run with different crowds.
They shared experiences as adult students living at home with their parents and before long, a romance was kindled. They were married in July 2000. Their daughter Eve was born in October 2001.
LeVeta, Jones admits, is not only his partner in life but also his partner in work. She often helps him come up with ideas for his column in the Weekly.
Jones also sometimes runs his finished columns by her to double-check. “Well, you know,” he said, “I’ve still got to go home at night “
Jones’ column, titled “Keeping Up With the Jones,” is about a variety of subjects but tends to concentrate on family and social life. “I don’t get into anything too heavy,” Jones said, “because of my work in politics. That’s why my column is kind of light.”
Jones currently is the Senior Legislative Aide and Public Affairs Director for City Councilman W. Wilson Goode, Jr. He writes and tracks legislative documents, organizes hearings and works on media relations.
Currently at work on his third novel, to be published this June, Jones is also shopping a movie script he and his wife wrote for “Pipe Dream.” In the future, they hope to open a film production company in Philadelphia.
While the future looks bright for Jones, he never forgets the road he traveled to get to where he is today. His work is certainly reflective of his past experiences, and he hopes it can contribute positively to the community.
Jones is excited to speak with Temple students in the future. “It’s invaluable for students to get an outsider’s perspective from a member of the community,” he said. “I just want students to know that they can make it.”
Barbara J. Isenberg can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org