Jenice Armstrong: Will Smith, Charlie Mack give laptop help

Charlie Mack, Will Smith
Charlie Mack, Will Smith
Posted: March 17, 2011

ANYONE WHO knows Charlie Mack Alston knows his heart matches his supersized 6-foot-7-inch frame.

One night recently, Alston was lying in bed watching 6ABC news when he learned that thieves had broken into West Philadelphia High School and stolen 60 computers, each valued in excess of $1,000. For most TV viewers, that tragic story was just another moment to "tsk, tsk" as they waited for the weather forecast.

Not so for Mack.

Alston, who broke into the Hollywood scene by doing security for Will Smith and DJ Jazzy Jeff, was so moved by the plight of the students at West Philly High, many of whom don't have their own personal laptops or Internet connections at home, that he reached out to Smith, who was in New York City filming "Men in Black III," and told him about the Feb. 21 theft. There was no lengthy discussion - it was just two like-minded pals agreeing to do whatever it took to make sure the students were able to get back online as quickly as possible.

"It was just on my heart that I wanted to do something. I said,

'We've got to replace those computers.' . . . I told Will and then I called West Philly High School," Alston told me yesterday. "I wanted this within 24 hours . . . so they [the students] didn't have any excuses as to why they couldn't compete, why they couldn't perform.

"I said, 'Hello, my name is Charlie Mack. I'm interested in replacing the computers that were stolen.' "

Happy endings don't always come that quickly, though. It took a bit to convince school officials that he was serious.

Next, he needed to contact district personnel who put him in touch with the district's Apple representative to order the replacement equipment.

Meanwhile, the police investigation was continuing. A week after the early-morning heist, police arrested two students, one from West Philly High and the other from University City High, after being tipped off by a man who had purchased one of the stolen computers on Craigslist.

Authorities arranged to buy one as well, which is how they wound up nabbing the two 17-year-old suspects. Authorities have since recovered 30 of the missing computers.

Alston, who organizes the Party 4 Peace celebrity weekends, plans to deliver 30 new computers tomorrow at 1 p.m. under the banner of the Will and Jada Smith Foundation and his own philanthropic organization, Charlie Cares. Smith won't be present since he'll be flying off to join his wife, who is accompanying their daughter, Willow, as she tours with pop star Justin Bieber.

When I called West Philly High, I was directed to the school district, which didn't return my calls. I wanted to hear about the program scheduled for tomorrow. I suspect that while he's there, Alston is going to share a little bit of the inspirational story of his life, which took him from selling drugs to walking the Hollywood red carpet. Jeff and Smith once recorded a song about him called "Charlie Mack (1st Out of the Limo)":

"Everywhere we go, downtown or to a show

We have two necessities, Charlie Mack and our limo

He's feared by suckers yet he's loved by kids

Pay attention and let me tell you who Charlie Mack is

He is our homeboy from around the block

He's regarded through the city as the hip-hop cop . . . "

"I love my life. I love it. I love the fact that I'm going to go there Friday and support these kids," Alston said. "The children are our future. We have to support them."

Send e-mail to heyjen@phillynews.com. My blog: www.philly.com/HeyJen.

comments powered by Disqus
|
|
|
|
|