In 1989, Marcus Ingram stood near two young men in the middle of an argument. As the fight escalated, one turned his back just as the other pulled a gun and fired. Instead of hitting the guy with whom he was fighting,, he struck Ingram instead, the bullet shattering his spine and paralyzing him from the waist down.
A freshman at North Carolina Central University at the time, Ingram went on to graduate and become a music producer. He admits however, that he, too, had once been caught up in the drama of the streets. Had he not been shot, he believes that he’d might not have changed his ways in time, and very well could have been in jail or dead by now. That’s why he refers to his condition as his “ultimate ability,” and is grateful that he’s survived not only the worst that life has to offer, but emerged ready to take advantage of his second chance.
Ingram has told the story of that fateful night to countless audiences. Over the years, he’s found that it is best to keep spirituality and humor as the focal point of the story, rather than the act itself. When he tells the tale with a dash of humor, people relax about his condition and the fact that he’s in a wheelchair. While laughing at his description of the events, people often called him ‘crazy,’ which led him to adopt the tag ChairKrazy. But on a serious tip, Ingram is thoroughly convinced that it was insanity that aggravated the emotions of the shooter.
These days Ingram, an Atlanta-based music industry trailblazer, writes, produces and raps. He also works with newcomers as well as established artists in the South.
In 2002, Ingram met and befriended William “Billy” Lesane, the late Tupac Shakur’s first cousin. At the time, Lesane owned a record store in Stone Mountain, an Atlanta suburb. Ingram and Lesane eventually established the independent record label, 4ever Family Music. Most days, Ingram can be found in the studio, laying down tracks. His inspiration is gospel music, which inspires him to concoct rhythms with ease and confidence.
“I’m not rapping for tears. I’m doing this to reach souls,” he says, adding, “Rap is easy, because it’s expression.” Though he has enough tracks to release eight to 10 CDs, he says, “It is important to know how to master the business of it all. That is my challenge at this time—learning the business side of the industry.”
He takes a hands-on approach, assisting in day-to-day operations of the studio.
Unfortunately, violence in the Hip Hop community is still all too commonplace. For many rappers—Ingram not included—to have been shot or stabbed is a badge of honor; it gives that person “street cred” aka street credibility. As a professional rapper, Ingram’s paralysis piques marketers’ and promoters’ interest. Shown in his wheelchair, he might be considered as possessing the ultimate in street cred, but he prefers not to hype that aspect of his experience. Instead, he devotes time to showing others how to overcome potentially devastating roadblocks. He speaks to women about protecting themselves in relationships, and to young males about gang activity and its consequences. He sees any interaction with others along the way as an opportunity to assist. He believes that there are no coincidences, and all things have a divine purpose.
“That belief alone helped me to evolve to a place of peace,” he says.
As a person navigating the world on two wheels, there is something that can quickly disturb that peace: “I get so frustrated when people without handicaps park in the handicap slots. Especially when I need to get out [of my car] with my chair.” He drives with the assistance of special hand tools that he made for himself.
For Ingram, his path has led him to seek higher truths. “Once the initial shock of my incident passed, I decided that I would live a life defined by purpose, regardless of my circumstances,” he said. “My body was broken, but not my mind. I can deal with my body by doing those things that I know are correct. With paralysis, one key element in staying well is circulation. Each day I must incorporate activity to stimulate my circulatory system. Eating a well-balance diet is also important.” He also tries to stay positive emotionally. “So far, I have handled that with a simple formula: I am alive and God is showing me the way to roll with my life. I am blessed.” His strong spiritual foundation comes from family:
“My father, who is now deceased, was my rock. He was strict, but loving. When Mom needed help, he was right there. He taught me a lot about being a man, and how to survive. It’s ironic, because it was almost like he was preparing me to survive the shooting with all my thinking intact. Now, I really understand the importance of having a positive male role model. My father was all that, and then some.
“His father, my grandfather, was an ordained Bishop, and I credit him for the spirituality of the family. My younger sister, April, is preparing to go into ministry. So it’s still flowing.” He shares a special relationship with older brother, Prentess, as well.
It’s his mother and grandmother that he credits with instilling in him an understanding of what really matters. That grounding has helped him in his marriage to his wife, Latrina, whom he says keeps him centered. She works as a supervisor with Family Intervention Projects throughout the metro Atlanta area; she is also legally blind. They make the relationship work by sharing daily experiences and maintaining a commitment to make honesty a priority. They definitely plan a family in the future.
In the meantime, he mentors other people’s children, particularly young men who are, like he once was, vulnerable to the tug of the streets.
“I have a lot of children that I have either ‘adopted’ or they have ‘adopted’ me,” he says, then adds, “it’s all about love.”
Says Ingram’s soul mate, Latrina: “My husband gives the word ‘perseverance’ new depth and his determination is habitual and contagious.”
Put another way: Marcus “ChairKrazy” Ingram is an indomitable spirit with the aura of success swirling all around him.
by Patricia G. Pope
Patricia G. Pope is the author of the award winning novel, Colored Waiting Room and a freelance writer. She lives in Powder Springs, GA.