Former Navy SEAL (Sea, Air and Land Forces) Remi Adeleke recently sat down with EBONY to discuss his book, Transformed, and how he became one of a small number of Black men to serve on the special operations unit.
In his memoir, Adeleke, 37, takes readers back to the early years of his life in Nigeria, where he was born into wealth. He described his parents’ romance as “the real Coming to America story,” a reference to the 1988 Eddie Murphy film. His mother moved to West Africa after marrying his father, a successful businessman on the continent.
After the untimely passing of his father in 1987, his mother, a teacher, moved back to the Bronx, New York, with her two sons. They lived in poverty, but Adeleke said his mother instilled the importance of education and the power of writing into her children. During his teens, he began to hustle.
“As I got older, I began to get crazy and rambunctious,” the author said of his illegal activities. “In the late ’80s and early ’90s. . . because I didn’t have a father—and I was looking for a father—I found my father in hip-hop. When rappers would talk about punching people in the face, who disrespect you, that’s what I wanted to do.”
After years of making regrettable decisions, Adeleke joined the navy in 2002 and later became a SEAL, where only 1 percent of all SEALs are African-American. He believes the lack of diversity comes from a lack of exposure in urban communities and the public education system.
“Growing up in the Bronx, there’s a lot of information left from minority communities,” the former naval officer said. “I never saw a billboard about special operations or Navy SEALS.”
Adeleke added that even as a former officer who wants to share his story about the navy, he has a harder time getting into schools in urban areas than those in suburban communities.
Transformed, which is available in bookstores and online, delves into his experiences with intense struggle, racism, pressure and failure that led to his success.
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Christina Santi is a news and culture writer for EBONY.com. Born and raised in the Bronx, New York, she considers herself a well-read, not so traditional feminist with a heavy interest in music, fashion and pop culture. Christina currently lives in New York City, where she refers to her Cuban & Jamaican descent often while writing about her experiences as a first-generation Afro-Latinx in America. She also devotes time writing personalized reading material for her tutees and turning ideas into words for streetwear brand, PUER By Noel Bronson.