“Your job is to be the old elephant,” said Frank Meeink — a former neo-Nazi skinhead — staring into a crowd of Hofstra University staff and students, wearing an unbuttoned flannel t-shirt with his sleeves rolled up to his elbows and his forearms covered in tattoos, encouraging them to show the younger generation how to treat other’s as equals.
“It’s so great that he’s able to admit his wrong doings and now he’s able to help others,” said Joy Jones, a freshman journalism student who was empowered by Meeink’s words.
Meeink grew up in South Philadelphia, where he struggled with identity issues and lived in a combative home. His mother battled drug abuse and he struggled to cope with an abusive stepfather. “He used to tell me we’re at war over my mom,” he said.
Meeink lost that war and not before long, he was sent to live with his father in West Philadelphia. One summer, Meeink was excited to go visit his uncle in the suburbs of Lancaster, PA. He looked forward to hanging out with his cousin who loved to skateboard and had a half-pipe in his backyard.
That trip changed Meeink’s life. Meeink’s cousin wasn’t the same. He was no longer the rock and roll loving skater kid who used egg whites and Elmer’s glue to keep his Mohawk standing straight. The half pipe was torn down as was the rock band poster’s Meeink remembered his in cousin’s room.
He had become a neo-Nazi skinhead and it didn’t take long to turn Meeink into one too.
Meeink went on to become a well-known leader of the neo-Nazi movement but after realizing error in his ways, he reconsidered his beliefs and abandoned the movement.
“If someone can go from one extreme to accepting everyone,” said Alexander Levine, a Jewish grad student who heard Meeink speak in high school. “Then that means change can happen.”
-Alexander M. Pineda