Aqeela Sherrills

Thrive Now presents: Aqeela Sherrills speaking on Watts Possible

Aqeela Sherrills is the Regional Director for Resources for Human Development, California, a national non-profit organization who's vision is rooted in co-creating a new paradigm where personal accountability, deep practice, and leadership are core principals for a new movement for transformative social change.

Aqeela Sherrills speaks and consults nationally and internationally on violence intervention and prevention strategies

On April 28, 1992, gang members in Watts, both Crips and Bloods, signed a  “Cease Fire Agreement” in the landmark breakthrough in easing open warfare between gangs.  The “Peace Treaty” simultaneously sought to deal with “human capacity building” in an area blighted by social ills induced by poverty. The success of the Cease Fire led to a decline in violence nation-wide and laid a strong developmental foundation for many community members, gang and non-gang youth and adults notably included, to seek to change their environment. As a direct result of our efforts, Los Angeles is experiencing a 40-year low as it relates to gang homicides and violence.

April 28, 2012 marked 20th Anniversary of the historic 1992 “Peace Treaty”, tentatively entitled, “Watts Possible-Healing as a catalyst for sustainable change”. In my talk, I share the inspiration for the launch of the Peace Treaty and share key strategies for addressing the now documented high levels of PTSD and hyper-vigilance in urban community across the country as a catalyst for a new peace movement in the U.S.A Reverence Movement.

Aqeela Sherrills came of age during the '80s in South Central Los Angeles's Watts district. He watched numerous friends and family members fall victim to gang violence and, as a Crip, threw himself enthusiastically into the cycle of revenge. Sherrills could have easily become a statistic himself; instead, he stepped away from the streets, entered college and found a new perspective, inspired by a pioneering professor's wisdom, author James Baldwin, and civil rights leaders like Malcolm X.

When Sherrills returned to Watts in 1988, a new fire burned in his belly: unity. The war between the Bloods and Crips had escalated as the rival gangs became entangled in the drug trade, and violence levels shot up across South Central LA. He pounded the pavement in an effort to recruit like-minded youth and influential gang leaders from both the Crips and Bloods factions, venturing into enemy territory armed only with an earnest appeal. He attracted the attention of, among others, football legend Jim Brown, who worked with Sherrills in founding Amer-I-Can, a foundation that continues to push for social change today.

Against all odds, Sherrills' appeals worked and in 1992, a day before the Rodney King verdict, the Bloods and Crips entered into a historic peace treaty. Years later, when the treaty showed severe signs of strain, Sherrills continued to work tirelessly for peace, cofounding the influential Watts-based Community Self-Determination Institute (CSDI). When he was again confronted with personal tragedy -- his 18-year-old son, Terrell, was murdered in 2004 -- Sherrills responded by publicly forgiving his son's killer, a story that led to his involvement with The Forgiveness Project.

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