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Aqeela Sherrills grew up in Watts, a district in South Central Los Angeles synonymous with crime and violence. Abused as a child, Aqeela saw the gang as a surrogate family and before long was carrying a gun to school. He could have become just another statistic but after seeing his best friend shot and killed on the school campus and then seeing so many other friends killed or jailed he decided it was time for a change.
Aqeela was the only one of his friends to go to college instead of prison. There he started to read and books by Malcolm X and James Baldwin changed the way he saw the world and the violence he had grown up with and he returned home determined to stop the cycle of retribution that had led to thousands of deaths. In 1992, on the eve of the riots in Los angeles it was Aqeela that helped broker a peace deal between his old gang the Crips and their historic rivals the Bloods.
But Aqeela's belief in reconciliation rather than retribution was tested to the limit when in 2004 his own young son Terrell was murdered in an apparent gang shooting. He came under pressure from his own community to seek revenge against the murderer but Aqeela stood firm and continues to believe that "where the wounds are, there the gift lies"