xer-files
Tuesday, April 04, 2006
  An American Beirut
Aqeela Sherrills did something extraordinary. In the late ‘80s, war-torn Watts, in South-Central Los Angeles, was an epicenter of gang violence. It was here, one of the most hopeless places on the planet, that Aqeela brokered peace.

-- Watts is a microcosm of what’s taking place in the country and in the world: it’s an urban war zone. Over the past 20 years, in LA county alone, there’ve been over 10,000 gang-related deaths. That’s roughly the number of lives lost in the Northern Ireland and Palestinian-Israeli conflicts combined. But because they’re poor black and brown youths, they have been totally criminalized and marginalized. “Gang member” is a scapegoat term society created that makes them inhuman, and when they get killed, people say, “Oh well, they were gang members.” But these were somebody’s daughter, somebody’s son, crying out for help in their own way. There’s this perception that people in urban communities are hardened killers and it’s not true. They’re bright and intelligent individuals, but they’re wounded deeply and carrying that around, which is basically a trigger. They’re only emulating what they see taking place in the world. --


Most of the kids as well as the adults are also suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder. People have become desensitized to the violence in this neighborhood, and our approach has been to address this situation, because it truly threatens a whole generation of young people. I mean, it already has taken a generation of folks, and we don’t want it to spread.
 
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