Newly freed Kwame Kilpatrick says he's done with politics

Jun 9, 2021 at 11:04 am
click to enlarge Kwame Kilpatrick and other officials at a public prayer rally. -
Kwame Kilpatrick and other officials at a public prayer rally.

After ex-Detroit Mayor Kwame Kilpatrick received an 11th-hour commutation on his 28-year prison sentence from then-President Donald Trump earlier this year, it was hoped that he would use his newfound freedom for good.

"Kwame Kilpatrick is a person of great talent who still has much to contribute," Mayor Mike Duggan wrote on Twitter at the time, who also offered to help Kilpatrick get a "fresh start."

But according to a new interview with Deadline Detroit, Kilpatrick's first since his release, the former "Hip-Hop Mayor" says he's done with politics.

Under Michigan law, Kilpatrick can't hold state or local public office for 20 years after his conviction, anyway.

According to the online news publication, which Kilpatrick said was instrumental in getting him released, he's living in the Atlanta area and changing careers to the ministry, enrolled to attend theological seminary school at Columbia University in the fall. He's also engaged to be married with a woman from Detroit.

"I know that's what I'm supposed to be doing," he said. "I can't imagine doing anything else for the rest of my life."

Kilpatrick said he had a religious epiphany around 2014 while talking to a volunteer in a prison chapel in El Reno, Oklahoma.

"I wasn't mad at Detroit," Kilpatrick said. "I wasn't mad at the people that testified against me. I wasn't mad at the process. I was mad at me, and that was the perfect place that I had to be for the kind of experience that I had with the spirit of God."

Kilpatrick said he then started preaching in his prison room, and was made the worship leader at the prison's church services. "I would get up there and sing and lead the worship, and then I started preaching the message," he said.

Kilpatrick said he has spoken to Duggan and briefly visited Detroit to visit family, but has no plans to stay here. "I didn't want to be in the city and there'd be whispers about politics," he said. "So I'm going to say this now, I'm not running for anything. I believe I've been put in a completely different lane."

Kilpatrick also recounted the surreal experience of learning that Duggan — Detroit's first white mayor in decades, and someone he has known since he was in high school — was elected years after it happened.

"This might sound crazy, but two years in, I never read a Detroit paper or any kind of media from Detroit," he said. "I didn't even know that Duggan had won mayor until I got to Louisiana (around 2018). A guy from Detroit came in, he said, 'It's a white guy that's mayor, I think his name is Doogan.' (And) I said Mike Duggan from DMC?"

Kilpatrick was convicted of 24 federal felony counts and sentenced in 2013 to 28 years in prison. He only served eight years of his 28-year-sentence, which was one of the longest ever handed down for public corruption.

Metro Times was among the first to call for Kilpatrick to resign as mayor, doing so in a lengthy 2008 cover story titled "Just go."

But Kilpatrick's not done with Detroit quite yet. He's set to preach at two Detroit churches this Sunday. A 8:30 a.m. pre-recorded service will be held at Greater Emmanuel Institutional Church of God (9190 Schaefer Hwy., Detroit; 313-864-7170; and at 10:30 a.m. at Little Rock Church (9000 Woodward Ave., Detroit; 313-872-2900;

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