Transcript of Aqeela Sherrill's TEDx talk belowâ€‹
Sâ€‹o it's been a great deal of timeâ€‹, since we've seen an effective movementâ€‹,â€‹ that possessâ€‹esâ€‹ the power and the capacity to address the deep and seemingly fixed flaws in our society and câ€‹ulture's coreâ€‹.â€‹ â€‹
Aâ€‹nd I believe that we now exist in a time where the heart has been prepared for a new movementâ€‹. Where love becomes a practice as opposed to an ideaâ€‹. Wâ€‹here vulnerability and humiâ€‹lâ€‹ity becomes sâ€‹trengthsâ€‹ as opposed to weaknessesâ€‹.â€‹â€‹ I call this â€‹Tâ€‹he â€‹Râ€‹everence â€‹Movementâ€‹. â€‹
I'm the youngest ofâ€‹ â€‹ten childrenâ€‹,â€‹ defined by the poverty that surrounded meâ€‹,â€‹ raised in a war zone in the Jordan town housing projectsâ€‹, witnessing things that no child should ever be subject toâ€‹.â€‹
â€‹Bâ€‹etween 1983 and 2003 there were over 20,000 gaâ€‹ngâ€‹-related deaths in the city of Los Angelesâ€‹.â€‹ â€‹Thaâ€‹t doesn't include those permanently maimed or incarcerated for the rest of their life.â€‹ -The children suffer from traumatic stress disorder, hyper-vigilanceâ€‹,â€‹ vicarious traumaâ€‹.â€‹ I meanâ€‹,â€‹ I understand violence as a public health issueâ€‹,â€‹ but because many of the perpetrators and the victims are black and browâ€‹â€‹nâ€‹ â€‹youth and young adultsâ€‹,â€‹ and we live in a society built on implicit bias and systemic racismâ€‹,â€‹ their cries have fallen on deaf earsâ€‹.â€‹
â€‹Iâ€‹n 1987 I went to college to escape the war in the neighborhoodâ€‹.â€‹ â€‹There I had a transformative experience that was my introduction to the reverence impulseâ€‹.â€‹ â€‹Iâ€‹n my first semester of college I met this beautiful woman that I fell in love withâ€‹,â€‹ who I perceived was everything I wasn'tâ€‹. Throughout our courtshipâ€‹,â€‹ I was insecureâ€‹ and immature and I kept asking myselfâ€‹, "Why would a beautiful girl like her want to be with a ugly guy like meâ€‹?" â€‹In the processâ€‹,â€‹ and through that woundâ€‹,â€‹ I would violate her privacy by reading her diaryâ€‹,â€‹ because I wanted to see who she was writing aboutâ€‹.â€‹ I would leave class early sometime to listen â€‹atâ€‹ her door because I was going to catch herâ€‹--â€‹ because I just couldn't believe that that she could love meâ€‹. And then finally I perpetrated the ultimate betrayalâ€‹,â€‹ which was I slept with another girlâ€‹.â€‹ I contracted an STD and I passed it to herâ€‹.â€‹ â€‹Aâ€‹nd of course she confronted me about it and I denied itâ€‹,â€‹ but harboring the shame and the guilt from my actions you knowâ€‹,â€‹ they just ate at meâ€‹.â€‹ â€‹Aâ€‹nd in a drug-induced contemplation I asked myselfâ€‹, "â€‹Why did I do this to this woman who had been so good to meâ€‹?"
â€‹Aâ€‹nd on top of all of that I was struggling with being a young fatherâ€‹.â€‹ I had my first kid at 15â€‹,â€‹ my relationship wâ€‹ithâ€‹ money was shotâ€‹,â€‹ and so you know I was getting kicked out of the dorms because I hadn't paid my rentâ€‹.â€‹ I really felt like I was falling off the deep endâ€‹. Sâ€‹o one dayâ€‹,â€‹ I'm high out of my mindâ€‹,â€‹ and I'm laying in my bedâ€‹,â€‹ and I started to reflect on my childhoodâ€‹.â€‹ â€‹Wâ€‹hat we didn't have in material possessionsâ€‹.â€‹ we made up with our imaginationâ€‹.â€‹ â€‹So we used to talk about this thingâ€‹,â€‹ we call â€‹Tâ€‹he â€‹Sâ€‹tory. â€‹And â€‹Tâ€‹he â€‹Sâ€‹tory was about how we would be walking â€‹and something would open up in the street and it would suck us down this hole and there we would meet this Chinese master who blessed us with these special powers and giftsâ€‹,â€‹ and he charged us with changing the worldâ€‹. â€‹And my sisterâ€‹,â€‹ she told the best storiesâ€‹--â€‹ she would assign each one of â€‹us powersâ€‹,â€‹ and we would take turns and embellishâ€‹,â€‹ upon the nextâ€‹,â€‹ and we told the story so muchâ€‹,â€‹ like four and five hours a day that it became my mantraâ€‹.â€‹ I believed that I would grow up and do something greatâ€‹. â€‹I believeâ€‹dâ€‹ that I would have a seat at the table aâ€‹tâ€‹ the changing of the worldâ€‹.â€‹ â€‹
Sâ€‹o as I lay in my bed highâ€‹ â€‹out of my mindâ€‹,â€‹ I was likeâ€‹,â€‹ â€‹"God I'm supposed to gâ€‹rowâ€‹ up and do something greatâ€‹--â€‹ now's the time to let me know what I'm supposed to be doingâ€‹."â€‹ â€‹Sâ€‹o I fell asleep and I woke up the next morning feeling refreshedâ€‹,â€‹ and I decided to â€‹do â€‹the first noble â€‹thâ€‹ing in my lifeâ€‹--â€‹ which was to tell this woman the truthâ€‹.â€‹ â€‹Sâ€‹o I invited Lisa to the lunchâ€‹,â€‹ and I saâ€‹tâ€‹ across the table from herâ€‹,â€‹ and my hands were sweatingâ€‹,â€‹ and my heart was poundingâ€‹.â€‹ I'm sure she can hear it and I saidâ€‹,â€‹ â€‹"â€‹I'm sorry it was meâ€‹.â€‹" And she was likeâ€‹,â€‹ "Why did you do this to meâ€‹?â€‹ I love youâ€‹." â€‹Aâ€‹nd I was likeâ€‹,â€‹ â€‹"â€‹I don't know whyâ€‹--â€‹ maybe it has something to do with what happened to me as a kidâ€‹.â€‹" â€‹Aâ€‹nd she was likeâ€‹,â€‹ â€‹"â€‹Well what happenedâ€‹?â€‹" â€‹Aâ€‹nd I shared with her that I was sexually abused as a kidâ€‹.â€‹ â€‹Nâ€‹owâ€‹,â€‹ when those words left my mouth, my whole life like this flashed in front of my eyesâ€‹,â€‹ and I was immediately transported back to that placeâ€‹,â€‹ third gradeâ€‹,â€‹ promising that I would never tell anybody about what happened to meâ€‹. And I realized that I never questioned any of the violence that I saw in the neighborhood because ultimately it meant to question the sexual and physical abuse I experienced in my own householdâ€‹,â€‹ and I didn't have the language or the courage to confront itâ€‹.â€‹ â€‹
Iâ€‹n the weeks that followed, that shame turned into angerâ€‹, â€‹â€‹and that anger turned into rageâ€‹,â€‹ and I started askingâ€‹,â€‹ â€‹"Why didn't anybody save meâ€‹?â€‹ â€‹Aâ€‹nd who else had been victimized in my houseâ€‹?â€‹" â€‹Iâ€‹n my search for answers I reâ€‹adâ€‹ 'The Autobiography of Malcolm X' and it politicized meâ€‹.â€‹ I read James Baldwin's â€‹'â€‹The â€‹Eâ€‹vidence ofâ€‹ Tâ€‹hings not â€‹Seenâ€‹,'â€‹ and it encouraged meâ€‹.â€‹ â€‹Aâ€‹nd that rage gave way to an epiphanyâ€‹.â€‹ I saw the intrinsic connection between the violence that I experienced in my house and the violence that was happening in the hoodâ€‹,â€‹ and I began to believe that if I could heal myselfâ€‹,â€‹ that I could be a vehicle for the â€‹ending of the killing in my own neighborhoodâ€‹.â€‹ â€‹This is what I understand as the reverence impulseâ€‹.
â€‹â€‹Sâ€‹o the â€‹Râ€‹everence â€‹Mâ€‹ovement is built upon five principlesâ€‹.â€‹ â€‹Oâ€‹neâ€‹: It's healing and insightâ€‹.â€‹ I believe that where the wounds are in the personal lifeâ€‹,â€‹ the giftâ€‹sâ€‹ lieâ€‹. â€‹Number two is attendant observationâ€‹,â€‹ that it's not always what we say that has the capacity to change a lifeâ€‹, itâ€‹ is sometimes what we allow ourselves â€‹to hear. â€‹Nâ€‹umber threeâ€‹,â€‹ compassionate serviceâ€‹--â€‹ and an investment in serviceâ€‹.â€‹ â€‹Mâ€‹eaning thatâ€‹,â€‹ we have to learn to get out of our own wayâ€‹,â€‹ so that we can actually give our giftâ€‹...I am just having a momentâ€‹, â€‹so bear with meâ€‹.â€‹ â€‹[audience applauds] Sâ€‹ee the reverence movementâ€‹,â€‹ it's common denominator intersects at the movements of all of the pastâ€‹,â€‹ whether it be civil rightsâ€‹,â€‹ or social justiceâ€‹,â€‹ environmentalismâ€‹,â€‹ or human rightsâ€‹. There's a need to restore the vitality of the human spiritâ€‹, â€‹because people are the proponents of these movementsâ€‹.â€‹ â€‹Sâ€‹o in the summer of 1988â€‹,â€‹ I returned home imbued with the hero's journeyâ€‹,â€‹ and I began to infect others in the neighborhood with my passion â€‹to endâ€‹ the killingâ€‹--â€‹ most notably my brother, who was a key player in the violence in the neighborhoodâ€‹.â€‹
â€‹Tâ€‹ogether we challenged the hoodâ€‹,â€‹ we began to ask the homies who was winning the war that we was waging against each other in the communityâ€‹,â€‹ every time somebody died we hit they name up on the wallâ€‹,â€‹ we pourâ€‹edâ€‹ out a little 40 ounce in their remembranceâ€‹,â€‹ but no one was there to provide direction and guidance for the children that were left behinâ€‹d. So we did a few things that led to what I believe was one of the most significant events since the 1965 riotsâ€‹.â€‹ â€‹
We began to march across â€‹all of the housing projectsâ€‹,â€‹ meeting with our so-called enemiesâ€‹,â€‹ talking to them about a peace processâ€‹. â€‹We partnered with Jim Brown who we met at the â€‹Sâ€‹top the â€‹Kâ€‹illing tour that â€‹was goingâ€‹ across the countryâ€‹,â€‹ and we co-founded the Ameriâ€‹Canâ€‹ program which was a short course in human development that became the foundation of the peace movementâ€‹.â€‹ â€‹Wâ€‹e created jobs wâ€‹hâ€‹ere none existeâ€‹d,â€‹ and those efforts culminated â€‹inâ€‹to what became the â€‹Pâ€‹eace treaty between the Crips and Bloods in 1992â€‹.â€‹ â€‹Iâ€‹t changed the quality of life in our neighborhoodâ€‹.â€‹ â€‹Iâ€‹n the first two years of the peace treatyâ€‹,â€‹ gang homicides dropped 44% and â€‹dominoâ€‹edâ€‹ throughout the cityâ€‹. From 2004 to 2014â€‹ we experienced ten consecutive years in a row of decreasâ€‹e in violent crime and murder in the city of LA,â€‹â€‹â€‹ and I credit the peace movement with that worâ€‹kâ€‹â€‹. I have labored â€‹for sixteen years on the frontlineâ€‹sâ€‹ of the movementâ€‹.â€‹ â€‹Aâ€‹t the height of Ameriâ€‹Can's work we were in 15 cities across the country saving livesâ€‹.â€‹ Iâ€‹'veâ€‹ traveled around the world to war zonesâ€‹,â€‹ and I've shared my experience about how to create sustainable peace efforts in urban war zonesâ€‹.â€‹ but nothing ever prepared me â€‹for â€‹what was to come nextâ€‹.
â€‹Iâ€‹n 2003 my oldest son Terrell graduated from high school and went to Humboldt State University on â€‹aâ€‹ scholarshipâ€‹.â€‹ â€‹Pâ€‹roudest day in my life â€‹was â€‹driving this kid to schoolâ€‹, â€‹enrolling him in his classesâ€‹,â€‹ because I knew that Terrell would be laying the foundation for his seven siblings who would be coming behind himâ€‹.â€‹ â€‹Hâ€‹e came home on winter breakâ€‹,â€‹ he went to a partyâ€‹,â€‹ â€‹in â€‹an affluent black neighborhood on the â€‹Wâ€‹estside of Los Angelesâ€‹,â€‹ and was shot to death at the partyâ€‹.â€‹ I meanâ€‹--â€‹ I'm no novice to violence and deathâ€‹,â€‹ I â€‹have witnessâ€‹edâ€‹ it all my lifeâ€‹,â€‹ but nothing ever prepares you for the loss of your childâ€‹.â€‹ â€‹Anâ€‹â€‹â€‹â€‹d as I drove to the scene where Terrell was shotâ€‹,â€‹ and then to the hospital where they pronounced him deaâ€‹dâ€‹,â€‹ I just kept repeating this mantra in my mindâ€‹,â€‹ that â€‹"What's the gift in this tragedyâ€‹?â€‹" â€‹Yâ€‹ou see in my neighborhood the conditioned response to murder is to take a life. And I understand all too well that this eye for an eye, tooth for a tooth philosophy that we live by, has left â€‹usâ€‹ all blind and toothlessâ€‹.â€‹
So I reached out to my friends and family membersâ€‹, â€‹and â€‹I shared with them that that this wasn't â€‹Terrell's legacyâ€‹,â€‹ that I wanted to harness the essence of Terrell and do something much more profound with iâ€‹t. And inâ€‹ the coming days I had an opportunity to go on America's Most Wanted and I implored the young man to turn himself inâ€‹,â€‹ because I know how relentless the streets can beâ€‹. Then I found out that it was a 17 year old kid who was the perpetratorâ€‹,â€‹ so I forgave himâ€‹,â€‹ and not because I condone what he didâ€‹,â€‹ â€‹but â€‹because I don't believe that people are their experiencesâ€‹. The things that we've perpetratedâ€‹,â€‹ the thingsâ€‹ thatâ€‹ have been done to usâ€‹,â€‹ they don't define who we areâ€‹,â€‹ they only inform who we becomeâ€‹. â€‹ I just didn't see him as the perpetratorâ€‹,â€‹ I also saw him as a victimâ€‹.â€‹ â€‹Tâ€‹hat this black boy was a victim of a culture that doesn't see him as humanâ€‹.â€‹ â€‹Hâ€‹e's a victim of a society that doesn't understand love as a practiceâ€‹,â€‹ it sees it â€‹asâ€‹ an ideaâ€‹.â€‹
â€‹Aâ€‹nd my life is so serendipitous that I know that one day I'll meet him and I'll be able to able to ask himâ€‹,â€‹ â€‹"What happened to you that caused you to have this calloused heartâ€‹,â€‹ that you would take another human beingâ€‹'â€‹s lifeâ€‹?"â€‹ â€‹Bâ€‹ecause you don't kill someone â€‹aâ€‹nd the next day you're skipping and dancingâ€‹.â€‹ â€‹Yâ€‹ou experience your victimâ€‹'â€‹s face and dreams and imaginings and flashbacksâ€‹.â€‹ â€‹Sâ€‹o his life is intrinsically connected to Tâ€‹eâ€‹rrell for the rest of hisâ€‹.â€‹ â€‹Aâ€‹nd his ability to live somewhat a balanced life in this world hinges on him reconciling what he didâ€‹,â€‹ in his own heartâ€‹.â€‹ â€‹Sâ€‹o I hold space for his healingâ€‹.â€‹ I hold space that is transformativeâ€‹,â€‹ because I believe in the divinity of human beingsâ€‹. â€‹â€‹
Given the opportunityâ€‹,â€‹ this young man can gâ€‹iveâ€‹ back ten times â€‹that of the average person because of â€‹tâ€‹his initiationâ€‹.â€‹ â€‹Yâ€‹ou seeâ€‹,â€‹ forgiveness it's not about condoning or forgettingâ€‹,â€‹ it's a creative exploration and analysis of the circumstances that brought you to that placeâ€‹.â€‹ â€‹Iâ€‹t's a metamorphosis â€‹of the givenâ€‹ idea about the experience so that it serves us as opposed to working against usâ€‹.â€‹
I've harnessed the essence of Tâ€‹eâ€‹rrell in many ways but I just want to name a few in service to his legacyâ€‹. The first thing is that in 2007 I launched â€‹theâ€‹ â€‹Râ€‹everence â€‹Pâ€‹roject to create an intentional spaceâ€‹,â€‹ a sanctuary to support people to talk about the deep secrets in their personal life as a way of accessing the gift of who they areâ€‹.â€‹ â€‹Iâ€‹n 2012 I joined Californiaâ€‹nâ€‹'s for safety and justice and co-founded the â€‹Crime Survivors for â€‹Sâ€‹afety and â€‹Jâ€‹ustice â€‹Iâ€‹nitiative which has passed some of the most progressive pieces of â€‹criminal justice reform â€‹legislation,â€‹ most notably â€‹Prop 47 in Californiaâ€‹, â€‹the â€‹Tâ€‹rauma Recovery Center billsâ€‹,â€‹ in which we put eight trauma centers in urban neighborhoodsâ€‹,â€‹ where you don't have to have a relationship with law enforcement in order to access servicesâ€‹,â€‹ and also the â€‹Sâ€‹urvivor â€‹Sâ€‹peaks conferenceâ€‹.â€‹ â€‹Aâ€‹nd talking about the â€‹gift in the woundâ€‹,â€‹ a week after Tâ€‹eâ€‹rrell was murdered we found out that his girlfriend was pregnant with his childâ€‹.â€‹
â€‹Lâ€‹ast month I celebrated â€‹Hâ€‹eavenly Terrell Cheryl's twelfth birthdayâ€‹.â€‹ I mean she's the love of my lifeâ€‹,â€‹ and my investment of love and time in that relationship is my commitment to â€‹Terâ€‹rellâ€‹'â€‹s legacyâ€‹.â€‹ â€‹
Yâ€‹ou see the â€‹Râ€‹everence â€‹Mâ€‹ovement is a movement of the heartâ€‹.â€‹ â€‹Iâ€‹t's a shift in perception from seeing the glass as half-empty to hâ€‹alf full. â€‹Iâ€‹t's about giving new meaning to old ideasâ€‹.â€‹ â€‹Iâ€‹t's not the what of observationâ€‹,â€‹ â€‹it's how we actually choose to seeâ€‹.â€‹ â€‹Iâ€‹t's a beholding not a judgingâ€‹.â€‹ â€‹Iâ€‹t's a holding of this space for the highest possibilities and probabilities to emerge from our experiencesâ€‹.â€‹ â€‹Yâ€‹ou see I believe that unless we help people to balance the gift in the wound in their personal livesâ€‹, â€‹all of the other afâ€‹orementioned movements just become barriers for us to hide behindâ€‹.â€‹ â€‹Sâ€‹o I ask you to join â€‹Tâ€‹he â€‹Reverence â€‹Mâ€‹ovementâ€‹,â€‹ and to be reverentâ€‹.â€‹ â€‹Tâ€‹hank you [Applause]
For more inspiration, join this Saturday's Awakin Call with Aqeela Sherrills. RSVP info and more details here.
Syndicated from YouTube.
On Feb 19, 2021 Patrick Watters wrote:
Deeply important to all humanity, and the earth (Mother) herself.
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