Yannik McKie is waiting on a row of bleachers in a park when a man with a backpack and a mean walk comes up behind him.
They exchange a few words. The man throws McKie the backpack stuffed with cash. McKie passes him a bag full of guns.
As they go their separate ways, a voice yells out.
The scene was scripted and rehearsed for a filmmaker and his camera, but it’s a flashback to a very real time in McKie’s life story that he is now trying to share with the world.
This week, Emmy Award-winning director Frank B. Goodin II shot a trailer to promote the upcoming documentary based on McKie’s memoir, Living in the Shadows: Adversity Creates Purpose. Through marketing and fundraising with the trailer, the men must raise $55,000 to finish producing and shooting the film, but Goodin said the efforts are worth the chances of the documentary affecting someone’s life.
“I find his to be an incredibly powerful story,” said Goodin, a Jacksonville, Fla., director and producer. “His could have been a typical story. Black guy in the neighborhood, things go wrong and he’s gone. But he turned it around, and God had something to do with it.”
McKie, a native of the Atlanta area and the current youth pastor in Augusta, had a happy and secure childhood until he became one of the country’s first AIDS orphans when both of his parents died from the disease in the early 1980s.
Although he and his sister were adopted by family friends, the trauma of losing his parents was part of what led him into a life of drugs, crime and waywardness. While attending Georgia Southern University, McKie was disinterested in school and focused on selling marijuana and leading a business of trafficking guns to New York.
Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives officials began surveillance on McKie and his transactions, and he was soon facing federal gun-related charges and prison time.
Whena state prosecutor ended up reducing the charges, McKie began working with the prosecutor’s at-risk youth mentoring program in Atlanta, which changed his life.
McKie began a career in mentoring and ministry and later launched the nonprofit McKie Foundation to help at-risk youths and needy families.
McKie came to Augusta in 2011 to become the youth pastor at Broadway Baptist Church; he also serves as the chief operations officer for the South Augusta Community Development Corp.
“I just want people to realize what they’ve been through doesn’t have the power to stop them,” McKie said. “I want people to understand the pain they’ve been through has a purpose. No matter what God has allowed to happen to you, there is a purpose.”
McKie said the proceeds from the film will go toward his foundation, which along with his work with the community developmentgroup, mentors youths and provides financial assistance for clothing, bills, academic tutoring and GED classes.
His goal is to expand the foundation to a nationwide effort to help prevent young black males from continuing the cycle of poverty, crime and prison.
“ ‘At-risk’ simply means there are elements in a child’s life like divorce, death of one or both parents, social or economic situations or trauma or tragedy that happens that makes them a proponent for prison, drug use and alcohol,” he said. “So the mission is to put a Christian, male role model in the home of every at-risk youth.”
The documentary will feature re-created scenes from McKie’s childhood, his criminal activity and mentoring and ministry work, Goodin said. It will also feature interviews with people from McKie’s life, including the prosecutor who had a key role in his turnaround.
Goodin, who met McKie when McKie went to speak at the Potter’s House International Ministries church in Jacksonville in 2010, said the dream for the film is to help someone else turn around a life.
“My personal goal as a director is just to focus and do the best job we can do so we can use it to help others,” he said.