Aswad

On Aug. 24, 2009, I had finished college and was offered a contract to play professional basketball in Europe. My dreams were coming true. That evening, as I was leaving a convenience store, two men tried to rob me. Before I knew it, I was lying on the ground, shot twice in my back. I nearly died. Weeks in the hospital turned into months of rehabilitation. Those bullets ended my basketball career. I didn’t know what I needed to heal from the trauma: how to access the physical and emotional support necessary to fully recover. It was overwhelming just to pay medical bills, handle inquiries from law enforcement and return to work. At times, I have asked, “Why me?” But five out of 10 men in my family had been shot, and I’ve lost 40 friends to gun violence, including my best friend when we were only 10. While recovering, I decided to replace despair and resentment with action. I made a commitment to stop cycles of violence that for decades have plagued too many communities of color, even while spending on prisons skyrocketed. There’s no shortage of resources; it’s that too little is invested in helping victims or our hardest hit communities. I’m committed to changing that. I went back to school for my masters in social work and now work to ensure that community groups best positioned to serve our most vulnerable communities can access the resources they need. When I see the scars on my body from that night in 2009, I often think I should not be here. But when I look at the faces of survivors I now work with, I am reminded of what I am here to do.

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