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Antwone Fisher Remembers Social Workers Who Helped Him

Antwone Fisher.

The 2002 movie “Antwone Fisher” is about a Navy psychiatrist who helps a troubled sailor and former foster child work through his emotional trauma and go on to become a Hollywood writer, public speaker and author.

 However, the critically acclaimed movie does not tell the whole story, the real Antwone Fisher told Three social workers — Bill Ward, Jill Edwards and Patricia Nees — played pivotal, positive roles in his life, Fisher said. Their story is told more fully in his book on which the movie is based, “Finding Fish.”

“Social work is really important,” said Fisher, 50, speaking by telephone from New York City where he was promoting his new book, “A Boy Should Know How to Tie a Tie” ($19.99, Touchstone Hardcover/Simon & Schuster).

“If it weren’t for social workers some kids would be like Oliver Twist. There wouldn’t be anybody watching over them and they wouldn’t be affiliated with anybody. People are hard on social workers. Let them go out there and try to do what social workers try to do.”

Fisher was born in prison and placed in foster homes in Cleveland, Ohio soon after birth. He was eventually placed with the Pickett family where he suffered emotional, physical and sexual abuse and later became homeless before joining the Navy.

Social workers did not rescue him from his abusive home, possibly because his foster mother coerced him into believing social workers could not help him so Fisher kept silent. “They (social workers) didn’t seem as powerful as my foster mother,” he said. “My foster mother told me and my foster brother that they weren’t powerful.”

However social workers still had a positive impact on Fisher. Fisher said he had 13 different social workers during his childhood but Edwards was the first he connected with emotionally. “She was always on the kids’ side — I loved her for that,” he said. “She made me feel I was not in the world by myself.”

After Mrs. Pickett threw Fisher out of her home Nees secured money to buy Fisher clothing and gave him information about himself that he never knew, including the name of his birth mother and his middle name, “Quenton.” She was also probably the first to warn that Fisher was a “walking pressure cooker” in need of therapy.

And then there was Bill Ward, pragmatic and kind social worker who gave the soon-to-be-an-adult Fisher a wake-up call and told him to stop feeling sorry for himself. He warned Fisher that at 18 he would age out of the foster care system and have to largely fend for himself.

“I was really mad at him for saying that,” Fisher said. “But I was getting down to the wire — I was almost 18. There was no more time for gentle strokes.”

After serving in the Navy Fisher worked as a prison guard and then a security guard at Sony Pictures. He reconnected with his birth family and wrote his life story, which got the attention of Sony executives. He eventually sold the film rights to 20th Century Fox.

Actor Denzel Washington directed the film and played Navy psychiatrist Dr. Jerome Davenport. Actor Derek Luke portrayed the adult Antwone Fisher in the film.

Fisher has stayed in contact with all three social workers. In fact, Ward dropped by when “Antwone Fisher” was filming some scenes in Fisher’s old Cleveland neighborhood. Ward was proud Fisher left Cleveland homeless but returned in a limousine.

“Way to come back!,” he said to Fisher.

Antwone has written several books and is also a poet. His latest book, “A Boy Should Know How to Tie a Tie and Other Lessons for Succeeding in Life,” offers young men tips on grooming, self-confidence, finances, dressing for success, personal fitness and diet. These are lessons Fisher wished someone had taught him while growing up. “I heard somebody describe it as Dad in a book,” he said.

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  1. What a wonderful tribute to social work…but Antwone had it within himself to accomplish all that he did. His social workers helped him discover his gifts so that he could use them in a positive way. Good for him and well done social workers!

  2. Great Article!

  3. Social Work is like no other profession. As a Supervising Social Worker at a local Foster Family Agency, I can tell you that with confidence. I have worked with children who have been so severely abused and neglected, it is a wonder that they are still alive. The human spirit will fight to survive and it will contine to do so, as long as there is hope. Sometimes, that hope comes in the form of an extended hand…the hand of a social worker. It only takes ONE dedicated person in the life of a child to make a difference. Antwone Fisher is a success story because it is about survival…and the connection between the child and the social workers. As I have told many, a Baker can create a cake and see the finished product. A firefighter may risk their lives to save others, but when the fire is out, they can go home after a job well done. Social workers may work for years, never fully realizing the impact on a childs life. Social work has truely left “an imprint on my soul”.

  4. What a wonderful story. I also am glad that Mr. Fisher portrayed social workers in a positive light!

  5. Everything that happened in that movie happned 2me in my real life! Antwone fisher has inspired me to share my life..look foward to me & my story….”arielle christine hall” ? , or nott!

  6. really touching story,antwone is an inspiration to all kids and grown ups who has gone through what he has gone through and to make such a huge achievement out of life and not giving up is a ACE!!!!looking forward to watch movies that is made from your books :) would be awesome well done antwone!!!!

  7. I am facinated with the Antwone Fisher story. As a single mother I can relate to not having what your child needs and the pressure by society to keep your children up to a standard. I remember how scary it was to seperate from my children’s father but I tried not to let go of their hands. Having to depend on other’s while I worked opened my children up to alot of un-necessary hurt and abuse from other’s who were supposed to have my back. Today I deal with three broken young ladies. This story inspires me to keep inspiring them to keep pushing and reassuring that it will get better some day!!! Thank You Sir for having the courage to Share. You are simple Amazing!!!

  8. I guess everybody is struggling with something. The best part of the Antwone Fisher story that I enjoy is when he started finding himself after such a horrible past life. He still had the strength to get back on his feet and say, “No more.” The best part was his hope and strength to put the pieces back together.

    I too am a poetry writer, I paint, have loads of copyrighted sorted work in all forms, I draw etc. I too struggle with my ownself in the way of illnesses. I still get back up and want to find a way out of my own chaos. Every time I watch Antwone Fisher as he triumphs in the movie and in real life it gives me hope of finding myself also. I admire his strength and courage and pray that I find mines also.

  9. Did Antwone ever find any of his half-siblings?

  10. Having just watched the movie for the (at least) fifth time, I just want to say how much I loved your story. I do hope your books help as many young people as possible. I love that you found success in your life. So well deserved…. I wish you continued success. Thankyou for sharing your story and your wisdom.

  11. such a inspiration for so many, God Bless You Antwon Fisher, and God Bless the social workers who made a difference even if it was just a small seed of mustard.


    Lorena Perez, SW at Puerto Rico

  12. Antione pulled himself from the ashes. And I think its probably a low % of youth coming from that background who have a happy ending. Unfortunately, most end up in the system . Prison, the streets, crime. Antione is a rare comodity . If all you know is the environment of abuse & neglect, you become a product of that environment. How do you fix that?? In most cases , they dont fix. Social & economical efforts @ present barely change the outcome. But if you expect to have a society other than one that encarserates @ a level known only in the U.S., you must invest in these programs & neighborhoods that produce a failed part of our society…For what its worth, thats my opinion.

  13. Antwone – remember me? it’s Fran. I was an account manager for you and your wife when I worked for Matt Litchenberg at GLWG. I am currently in graduate school at USC persuading a MSW. Reinventing myself from a world of bookkeeping / accounting to the world of Social Services. I am currently working for a non-profit Mental Health America Los Angeles in the Military Resource Center. The VA is my employer of choice. I am a case manager for veterans -( thank you for your service) assisting veterans who are at imminent risk of loosing their housing or homeless. Although accounting paid so well it was just a means to end J.O.B. I have always had a passion to help others and here I am. The numbers I count are the veterans and or families I assist daily – it’s a lifetime career and I am passionate about what I am doing. I’m up (almost 2 am) writing a paper on your life story( strength based) as it surely illustrates how you used your adversities to propel you as a victor not a victim. I believe D. Saleebey says it best when he said, ” The strengths perspective holds firm the idea that everyone who struggles learns something from their struggle and develops capacities and traits that may ultimately turn out to be bountiful resources in moving towards a better life”. You are a sure example – what doesn’t kill you makes you stronger”. I sincerely hope you and those you love are doing well. GOD bless.

  14. I’m really inspired by his story cause each one teach one,and we can live through others .I enjoyed the movie I watched it with my mother and we cried our eyes out I will continue to look for books and movies that he has written or produced because I have been inspired by this young man .

  15. Did antwone mother kill his father?

  16. Hey how r you Mr. Fisher. Your movie was awesome!! Every time I watch it I cry. What you went through in your childhood, made you stronger then ever. U were very brave and I commend you for that. You held on to the towel instead of throwing it in May God continue to bless you

  17. I am living this movie in a sense as we speak. When I first saw this movie I cried repeatedly, I am crying now. I have custody of my grandkids and I am tired to my soul but the thought of them going to foster care and being mistreated and physically or sexually abused gives me the strength to get up everyday and fight for mines. I owe a lot of that to him and my heart goes out to him and my admiration

  18. What an important movie! I am so grateful that Antwone was able to not only survive, but ultimately thrive in this world regardless of his circumstance. It is a twisted country we live in, where we can send people to the moon, but we can’t protect little children. I am curious to know what laws would have to change or what practices need to be in place within the foster care system that could help protect children from these types of abuses?

  19. I would love for Mr. Fisher to see this post if this is even a remote possibility. I just now viewed the movie re: his life. I have nothing but the greatest respect for Mr. Fisher and forgiveness in my heart for those who hurt him. I shed tears of joy when those double doors were opened and the rest of his family was there. The loss is his mothers, not his. If only I could talk to her I would tell her what a joy it is to raise a child and a son no less. I hope she lives a long life and her memory never fails her. Mr. Fisher, kudos to you for your bravery and love. You ended up loving yourself enough to love someone else and got a family in return. God Bless to you and yours.

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