Canton Woman Ready
for Oprah Winfrey

  by LeAnn Corn

Fredricka Early Stewart was a crack pushing dope head.  Now she?s out to tell the world how she was miraculously rescued from a life of drug addiction, homosexuality, gangs and prison.

Stewart, 42, of Canton, was born into a tumultuous relationship between her black father and Greek mother. When she was 6 years old, she was told her father had killed himself.

Three years later her mother went to prison for shooting and killing another man.

Stewart never felt like she fit anywhere and had homosexual tendencies early on. A self-proclaimed lesbian at 14, she shot a girl over jealousy of a switchblade and chains in her locker.

Stewart?s mother?s family never really accepted her because she was biracial, so she was sent to Mississippi to live with her paternal grandmother, the late Early Lee Love Stewart.

That?s where Stewart began to learn about Jesus.

"Big Mama showed me love and values for the first time in my life," Stewart said of her grandmother. "But I chose to go down the wrong path."

After a month in Mississippi, Stewart was suspended from school for participating in a racial incident. She eventually graduated and returned to Canton as "Freddy" to work at the Ford Motor Co.

That?s where she learned to shoot speed and became involved in serious lesbian love affairs. At one point she was seeing five women, and the jealous lovers stabbed her and shot her. She became more addicted to all kinds of drugs and tried to commit suicide four times.

In the mid-1980s, Stewart was making up to $25,000 a month from operating a crack house in Massillon and three more in Canton. She transported kilos of crack-cocaine to and from places like New York City and later became involved in check-cashing schemes.

Machine guns were an everyday part of her masculine wardrobe, and everyone she knew was addicted to drugs.

An undercover police officer arrested Stewart in 1989 after she gave him crack-cocaine. She was given probation and sentenced to a half-way house for women, which she was later kicked out of because of her lesbian relationships.

Stewart moved to Atlanta, Ga., to be with a lover and ended up in a gang that robbed drug houses.

In 1991 she returned to Canton and was taken to prison after trying to receive emergency medical treatment under a false name for her broken leg.

The pain from gangrene in her leg and from drug withdrawal began to wear her down as she sat day after day in solitary confinement facing up to 25 years in prison. It was then Stewart remembered her grandmother?s words: "When times was tough, that?s when I turned to the Lord . . . because He said He will never put more on me than I can bear."

Stewart had stopped to visit her grandmother on her way back to Ohio from Atlanta, and she recalled "Big Mama" had told her during that visit, "Baby, God has a calling on your life, and He?s going to use you in a mighty way."

She thought at the time "Big Mama" must have had the wrong grandchild. But as she sat alone in that cell, with the weight of all her bad choices squeezing the life out of her, she cried out to God.

"I started quoting Scripture," Stewart said. "I cried out and said ?Lord Jesus, you said you would never put more on me than I can bear, and I can?t bear any more. Forgive me, and save me??"

That was May 25, 1991, and Stewart said, "I never turned back. Freddy?s dead."

God delivered Stewart from homosexuality and the drug and alcohol addictions.

"He turned alcohol into a bad taste in my mouth and took the pain from my leg," she said. "Homosexuality was the last thing He had to work out of my life, and it came down to God telling me He couldn?t use me unless He could have all of me."

For the first time in her life, Stewart began to really live. When she was released from prison, after serving only one year, she went back to the "hood" to tell what had happened to her. She distributed Bibles from the trunk of her car and faithfully attended services at Trinity Gospel Temple in Canton.

She shared I Corinthians chapter 6, verses 9-11: "Do you not know that the sexually immoral nor idolaters nor adulterers nor male prostitutes nor homosexual offenders nor thieves nor the greedy nor drunkards nor slanderers nor swindlers will inherit the kingdom of God. And that is what some of you were. But you were washed, you were sanctified, you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and by the Spirit of our God."

In 1992 Stewart began telling her story to clients at Quest Recovery Services and Deliverance House, a Canton facility for women recovering from substance abuse. Now she speaks all over the country and is involved in a national prison ministry called Operation Starting Line.

She worked closely with Pastor Dave Lumbardi to initiate Trinity?s Street Outreach Ministry, which, along with Quest, other churches and the Canton mayor?s office, hosts drug-free block parties all summer.

Stewart also organizes the annual Drug-Free Rally and Gospel Concert at Nimisilla Park in Canton. The park is infamous for drug deals, crime and prostitution. The rally is one day where people of all ages can come for ribs and free entertainment without drugs or alcohol. Stewart speaks, and thousands have made decisions to follow Christ.

This year?s Drug-Free Rally is set for Aug. 5 from noon to 7 p.m.

"Anywhere there?s prostitution, drugs, gang banging, I want to go and give people who are too ashamed to walk into church the opportunity to come to Jesus," Stewart said.

People that knew the old "Freddy" are skeptical that she has changed, but Stewart said she answers only to God now. She can envision a film about her life to reach out to the hopeless, and she would love to share her story with millions of viewers on the "Oprah Winfrey Show."

"My vision is to continue to be used to win souls for Christ," Stewart said. "I got boldness. I?m not ashamed to share the Gospel, to share that there is a way out. There?s hope."