Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Aqeela Sherrills

As a child, Aqeela Sherrills was a member of the notorious L.A. street gang, the Crips, long time rivals to the equally notorious Bloods. He grew up in Watts, a district in South Central Los Angeles infamous for its violent gang culture. He was the youngest of ten children, and from his earliest days all he knew was violence, both at home and on the streets. Abused as a child, Aqeela saw the gang as a surrogate family and before long was carrying a gun to school, getting into fights and robbing people. He could have become just another statistic, but after seeing his best friend shot and killed at school and so many others killed or jailed, he decided it was time for change. He swtiched gang life for student life, and was the only one of his friends to go to college instead of prison; started to read books, and soon the writings of Malcolm X and James Baldwin changed his view of the violence he had grown up with. He returned from college determined to stop the cycle of retribution that had led to many deaths.

In 1992, on the eve of the Los Angeles riots, Aqeela helped broker a truce between his old gang, the Crips and their rivals, the Bloods. But there were still sporadic acts of violence, and so Aqeela's beliefs and rejection of retribution were tested to the limit when his own young son Terrell was murdered in an apparent gang shooting in 2004. He came under pressure from his own community to seek revenge against the murderer, but Aqeela stood firm and continues to believe in the power of reconciliation. He has now spent the last 20 years campaigning across the U.S. and the world for peaceful resolution, and has even advised foreign governments from Northern Ireland to Serbia on the benefits of non-violence.*

This is all to say that this formidable good brother has agreed to review my upcoming book on marginalized young males of which I'm very thankful. I could get fancy titles to give my fourth book some popularity at the cocktail level, but if the youth don't respect those titles then what's what the point? Unlike most books on the youth, I'm speaking directly to them and not my colleagues, so to get a 'yes, I'll take a look at it' from a grassroots PhD is my version of having arrived!

*From BBC International Radio Station

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Congratulations on your book(s) in progress - and on starting the new writer's group. All of this is so exciting ... and it seems so fitting for your spirit. I'm wishing for you many additional gifts in the future.