It is Black Entertainment weekend in Atlanta, Georgia, and a lot of entertainers are in town for a big award show. Anthony Hall stands on a street corner across the street from one of the happening nightclubs, lifts a megaphone to his lips, and starts preaching to everyone in line.
“Some of you are going to be in church tomorrow,” Anthony says. “Some of you are going to be singing in the choir tomorrow. What fellowship does darkness have with light?”
A woman comes out of line to tell Anthony, “I know you were talking to me, ’cause I’m gonna be in the choir tomorrow.”
The Street Preacher
As Anthony preaches and more people leave their places in line, the club Promoter and Manager come across the street to tell Anthony to go away. People are leaving their business and depriving them of money. Anthony only responds, “Praise God.” As they continue talking, a big man walks up to stand behind Anthony. Anthony keeps talking, but positions himself so he can still see the man. He thinks the guy is probably a bouncer just waiting for a chance to knock him out.
Now six New Guys show up, telling Promoter and Manger to leave Anthony alone. But the eight men soon realize they know some of the same people. New Guys seem to think that gives them the right to demand a job in the club. Agreed, but first they must make Anthony leave.
“Who told you to come here?” the head New Guy demands.
“God told me to come,” Anthony answers.
The man looks at the ground, then tells Promoter and Manager, “I can’t go against God!”
Now an argument erupts between Club men and New Guys. Eventually, Club men return to the club, leaving New Guys, with the big man still quietly standing behind Anthony.
Anthony continues preaching. Half an hour passes before New Guys leave, but the big guy still stands there, and Anthony keeps an eye on him.
Suddenly the big guy speaks.
“I left the hotel to buy my wife something to eat, and heard you preaching six blocks away. I came to listen, then I watched to see if you would punk out. I heard one of those six guys say they’d hang around for a while in case the manager tried to fight you. I was hoping you didn’t leave. Man, I’m so proud of you. I’m a believer too. God is letting me know what I need to do.”
Anthony Hall is no stranger to the dangers of the streets, but not because he is a street preacher. Born and raised in Hurt Village, Memphis, Tennessee, he grew up accustomed to the street environment. The movie, “The Blind Side“, gives a brief glimpse into life in Hurt Village.
Anthony grew up with no idea who his father was and drug dealers as his role models. Not knowing any different, he learned to want the same things these strong male figures wanted. Now, years later, he feels — and with good reason — God protected him.
When Anthony was about thirteen, his mother took him with her to a doctor. Anthony describes her as being “…married to the streets.” He knew her lifestyle, and what she was willing to do to score her next fix. He actually got excited, thinking his mother was pregnant. He had two older sisters, and had always wanted a younger brother. After an hour with the doctor, his Mom came out with eyes that said she had been crying. Tears of joy, the young boy thought.
Walking home, his Mom horrified him.
“Tony,” she said. “The doctor gave me six months to live. I have full-blown AIDS.”
The ground turned to quicksand under his feet.
Back in Hurt Village, his mom went to find her friends, but Anthony went into his room and cried. He didn’t really know God or anything about Him. All he knew of church was when his mom took him and his sisters to get food or toys at Christmas. They were back and forth between two different churches, and his mom made him get baptized in each one. Perhaps she hoped it would keep him out of juvie. Whatever germ of an idea he had of God, Anthony fell on his face and prayed God would let his mom live long enough to see him be something.
Outside, he saw his mom hanging out with her friends, drinking a beer and listening to music, like it was any other day. But for Anthony, the days would never be the same.
Every morning, before going off to school, he would crack open his mother’s door and wait for a sign that she was still alive. At school, he was still a troubled teen. In the back of his mind was always the thought when he got home that day, his mom may be dead.
Graduating high school with a 1.75 GPA and a total of 11 on his ACT ruled out college, or so Anthony assumed. Until a coach named Dennis Connor showed up from Stillman College. His good news was that the Tuscaloosa, Alabama school was willing to take any student regardless of GPA or ACT scores. But the bad news was a high school diploma was required.
That diploma was a big problem. From eighth to twelfth grade, Anthony had failed to pass Tennessee’s TCAP exit exam. He went to summer school to prepare to take it one more time. His seat mate was a smart guy, so he thought he had it made.
“I cheated off this guy the entire time,” Anthony says. “I put everything on my paper he put on his except his name.” During the test, the teachers saw him cheating. With a few questions left, he filled in the bubbles to make a Christmas tree, praying they were the right answers. He got an 82 on the TCAP.
Six and a half years later, in 2005, Anthony graduated with his bachelor’s in physical education. His former football coach learned he had graduated and invited Anthony to join him at Feyette-Ware High School in Somerville, just outside Memphis.
He returned home triumphant. He was head girls basketball coach and assistant football coach. He could walk back into his mother’s house as SOMEBODY. Two days later, his mom was admitted to ICU where she later passed.
God had honored the prayer of a 13 year old.
Pursued Pseudo Christian
Throughout college, Anthony thought he was a Christian. Sometimes he went to church. He anonymously posted Scriptures on the dorm bulletin board. But his lifestyle of partying betrayed that idea. In his August 31, 2018 Facebook post, Anthony describes himself as, “… a Hell-bound, porn loving, fornicating, alcohol abusing, lying, cheating, manipulative, womanizing, truth rejecting, blasphemous punk…”
Once he started teaching, he rode to work every morning with a friend who played a CD of his church’s music and preaching. Anthony began taking notes, then started attending Bellevue Baptist Church. He says that’s when God was pursuing him.
When he finally decided to become a Christian, he went cold turkey — no more cursing, no more women, no more drinking, no more gambling. After that, he learned all he could; his mentor, Eric Brand, taught him Bible reading went hand-in-hand with application. After reading his Bible and thoroughly understanding the sermons he was hearing, Anthony taught the same truths to his athletes, passing on what he had learned.
After teaching in Memphis for five years, Anthony found himself in Atlanta, Georgia. When a friend asked him why he had moved, he answered, “I came to pursue acting.”
That “I” seemed to shout back at him, leading him to wonder if he was doing what God wanted of him, or simply pursuing his own interests.
Hurt Village Seminary
That led him into working with Teach One to Lead One, a national organization that works with at-risk teens through the school system. Although Anthony may not initiate a conversation about God, he can lead the students to either share their own stories or ask the right questions. But working in the school system simply was not enough.
He calls his years in Hurt Village his seminary, where he was given a testimony that he must share.
“Who am I not to share what He has done?” he asks. “Who am I to be silent? For what God has done for me, I know good and well He can do for so many others.”
Is it any surprise Anthony now spends his time on Atlanta’s street corners, preaching to all who will listen? In his Oct. 18th, 2018 Facebook post, Anthony wrote: “Most people think street preaching is going out to yell and scream at the lost! They have an idea that street preaching is condemning everyone to Hell! Absolutely Not! It’s going out to proclaim the greatest news ever to mankind! It is simply a starving man who has found bread telling other starving men where to find it!”
The Life of a Street Preacher
But what does a day of street preaching look like? Not every day is as dramatic as the one shown above. Each day starts with prayer. Anthony will have certain Scriptures and messages in mind as he searches for just the right spot to stand. He looks for a place with a lot of traffic, both car and foot. He often walks around an area once or twice before settling on his spot.
Many people start out acting hostile and end up in tears. But sometimes fellow Christians show up who become encouragers as they all spread the Good News.
When Anthony is on the streets, his wife will sometimes drive by with their oldest son, Alexander, so he can see and hear what Dad is doing. Of course, Alexander has also asked to accompany his Dad. But the proudest moment of Anthony’s life came from something then 8 year-old Alexander did at school one day: He came home excited because he had shared the Gospel. His mother asked him which friend he had talked to, but he said, “No. I stood up in the middle of the cafeteria.”
Thanks to a Hurt Village Prayer
A 13 year old boy’s anguished cry for his mother began a surprising journey. But for Anthony, the journey has been worth everything to see lives changed, and now to see his son follow in his footsteps.