"I am the real Omar," Andrews tells me by way of introduction, referring to how he was the inspiration for the ruthless yet moral stickup man in the Simon and Burns HBO series "The Wire."
Omar Little didn't make it through "The Wire's" five-season arc. He was shot to death in the final season — as was a member of his crew, Donnie, who was played by Andrews himself in a bit part.
In real life, Andrews managed to survive the kind of street justice so accurately depicted in "The Wire." At 57, he seems grateful to be alive, speaking repeatedly about "blessings" on Thursday evening to a group gathered at the University of Maryland Law School to launch and raise funds for his new nonprofit organization targeting urban youth.
The law school is just a half-mile away but worlds apart from Lexington Terrace, the since-demolished public housing complex where he was a part of a notoriously violent drug trade. To a crowd that included Burns, former congressman Kweisi Mfume, Maryland Law Dean Phoebe Haddon and Harvard Law professor Charles Ogletree, Andrews spoke of his hopes for the group Why Murder?
The name stems from 1986, when Andrews, then a drug dealer and stickup artist, was paid by a drug lord to kill a rival. Just before Andrews fired the fatal shot, the victim looked him in the eye and said, "Why?"
"To this day, I'm still trying to find that answer," he said.