What's Next for White Boy Rick?

By Chuck Bennett

Photoshop by Kevin Randolph and Styling by Dennis’s Berry for The Suite Depot

If you don’t know who White Boy Rick is, Google him. If you want to learn most of the truth about him and his plight, watch the documentary on Netflix called “White Boy.” Or read the well-documented eBook, “The Trials of White Boy Rick,” by Evan Hughes. There’s also a Hollywood movie called “White Boy Rick,” that White Boy Rick himself has never seen and that he does not advocate.

But you won’t learn about WBR in this magazine article. At least not that way. This is not a story about White Boy Rick. This is a story about my friend, Richard John Wershe, Jr. -- who he is as a man, his likes and dislikes, and his plans for the future. We want you to know what a cool person he is and why he has genuinely touched the hearts of so many people.

“Rick is an amazing, kind, giving soul, who gives back before he worries about himself,” explains Michelle MacDonald, his fiancé, who he met when they were both about 12 years old in middle school. “He’s very generous and straight forward. He will tell you exactly how it is. He’s real. He doesn’t put on a façade. He owns who he is.”

Rick and Michelle stayed in touch throughout his entire 32-year incarceration. “I got a birthday card from him every year or a phone call,” she fondly recalls.

Rick has three adult children, and one daughter who is not biological. He has six grandchildren. He and Michelle, whose family owns an auto dealership, live together comfortably in a suburb on the eastside of Detroit. They share a home with two adopted feral cats -- Bonnie and Clyde, and a pair of rescue Shih Tzu-Pomeranians -- Sophie and Rosie.

“We’ll get married,” says Rick. “I’ve got to put a ring on it. I love her. This is my ride or die. Plus, if I buy one more car without buying a ring, I’m in big trouble.”

He mentions cars because that is one of his guilty pleasures – cars, watches, and shoes. That’s what he spends most of his money on.

Rick’s favorite color is blue. His favorite cuisine is Italian. His favorite local restaurant is Bella Piatti in Birmingham, owned by his longtime family friend, Nino Cutraro and his wife, Liz. He loves Thanksgiving-style meals (he enjoys one with Michelle’s father practically every Sunday), and he eats chicken in some form probably every day. He loves all kinds of music, but really enjoys old school hip hop, like Run DMC, LL Cool J, and one of his favorite rappers of all time, Biggie.

“Biggie for me is inspiration,” says Rick. “I like people like him or Fifty. I really get inspired by Fifty, how he rose from the ashes. This is a guy that people called a thug and a criminal and counted him out. But look at him now. He’s one of the hottest players in the game.

Rick’s two favorite movies of all time speak strongly to his character – “Scarface” and “It’s a Wonderful Life.”

“I like the story of Scarface,” Rick explains. “Not the drug part of it, but the story of his life and how he came from nothing and became something. The ending is tragic and sad, but I like the story. And then, every year, on Christmas Eve, I’d watch “It’s a Wonderful Life”. In prison, I’d actually sit there and get emotional watching that movie – every year.”

“BMF” ranks as the top TV show in Rick’s inventory. It’s no wonder. Rapper Eminem portrays White Boy Rick in the series.

“It’s a good show and it’s getting better every week so I would suggest that everybody tune in.”

Photoshop by Kevin Randolph and Styling by Dennis’s Berry for The Suite Depot

To relax, Rick enjoys staying home with Michelle and the pets. (I just chill,” he says. “I love it.”) What knocks him off his square is gossip – “I also hate haters, naysayers, people who tell you, you can’t do something. People who act like they know, but they don’t know shit. I don’t like people who judge people. I don’t judge anyone. I don’t care what color, what race, what sexual preference. It’s none of my business.”

People who know Rick Wershe, Jr. well, often talk about how kind and generous he is. “He’s got the biggest heart,” adds Michelle. “He’s always giving back quietly. It’s amazing.”

There was the time he gave a waitress in a casual restaurant a $200 tip. Or the time he tipped all the workers at the car wash $100 each. Or the time that he spotted his friend who he was in prison with, standing at a bus stop, and made a U-turn, talked to him, gave him some money and his business card so he could find a job and a home for him.

“He never called me,” says Rick. “I’ve gone back to look for him several times. It really bothers me that I can’t find him. If you’re really homeless, please let me help you. I’ll see him again.”

Rick loves helping people, and apparently, he is set up financially where he can do just that. “I think I’m doing really well after 32 years and 7 months in a cage,” he says. “On my 365th day home, I signed a 7-figure deal. And I signed a 6-figure deal sitting in this restaurant (Bella Piatti) on my 30th day home.”

Rick feels that one of the biggest misconceptions about him is that some people think that he told on all those people. “I told on corruption,” he recalls. “All of my friends from the ‘80s that are still alive, they are still my friends.”

Another popular misconception of White Boy Rick is that he’s a gangster. “I’m not a gangster,” he says adamantly. “I grew up in the hood. Everything I did, I’m not proud of. I don’t brag. I’m not going to brag about anything that I did that might send some kid down the same path that I went down.”

Had he not been involved in the drug game, Rick says his career path would have still been to be an entrepreneur. “I was always, even as a kid, an entrepreneur. I don’t like to work for anybody. I don’t want to follow anybody. As we sit here now, I’m working on another film. I'm getting another film sold as a documentary. I do some major work with Team Wellness and we’re trying to change the Foster care system.”

“I am very fortunate to work with Team Wellness and people like Sherry Gay Dagnogo and all these wonderful people to try and make changes and stop sending nonviolent offenders to prison the first time. A lot of people need help and kids belong in school, not prison. Our prison system is a war on poverty. Our judicial system is very broken.”

What people don’t know about Rick, in his mind, is how much it means to him to fight for other people. “A lot of people say things in prison and when they get out it’s a whole different story,” he says. “One of the things I stand by is that what I said I’m going to do, I’m going to do and continue to do it. Whether it’s fighting for poverty-stricken kids that I don’t want to end up in the system or helping people that are wrongfully incarcerated or over sentenced.”

Rick is also currently involved with a popular cannabis company called Pleasantrees. With them, he has launched his own cannabis brand called “The 8th.”

Photoshop by Kevin Randolph and Styling by Dennis’s Berry for The Suite Depot

“It’s a cannabis brand but it has much deeper meaning,” he explains. “I’m trying to educate people on the constitutional rights. Your 8th amendment is the ban on cruel and unusual punishment and the ban on excessive fines. I talked to a guy the other day. He got out of prison, but they fined him $100,000. So, for the rest of his life, he’s trying to pay $100,000. A knee on the back of your neck is cruel and unusual punishment. That is not normal. We need to know all our rights, so they are not abused.

“The 8th is a platform that I’m going to use to teach people what their 8th amendment is and a lot of the proceeds that we make from that brand will go towards prison reform and jail diversion,” Rick continues. During the recent launch party at MGM Grand Detroit, Rick took the microphone and asked his friends if they would help him buy a specialized van for his handicapped friend who was in the audience. Within 5 minutes, nearly $100,000 was raised.

“This isn’t a fundraiser,” Rick said at the event. “This is just what we do.”

Rick is in a good place in his life. He still occasionally suffers from post prison nightmares, but overall, he’s very happy. He gets up every morning (starting with a daily devotional reading), goes to the office and works on his many projects. He loves his circle of friends and looks to them for guidance in life and his various endeavors.

“I was gone a long time and I have a lot of things to work on,” he says. “I still struggle – 32 years and 7 months is a long time to be in a cage. I might hide it pretty well, but I still struggle. I concentrate more on the work I need to do for others. I wish I could change the system to help others that are wronged by it. I wish I could help the forgotten ones -- people whose rights that have been abused, people who have lost their lives because of our system. But not just that. I want to give back to my community. I want to do good things. I want to do positive things.”