The Evolution of Life After Hate
For more than a decade, I believed I was the sole heir to the repercussions of poor decisions and of having lived a life inundated with aggressive dehumanization; self-inflicted and directed at others. It was a lonely road to walk, and for such a long time, I asked myself the following questions (and many more) and I wondered if there were other human beings in the world asking these very same questions: Am I the only one? Can any other human being identify with the road I’ve traveled? Is it possible that there are others who are out there making amends, seeking forgiveness, and making a difference? And then, fifteen months ago, my life (and the lives of many others) was forever changed when I attended the Summit Against Violent Extremism (S|A|V|E).
At the S|A|V|E conference, I met some of the most amazing human beings I’ve ever had the good fortune to know: individuals who are survivors of violence; individuals who have dedicated their lives to making a difference in the world around them; individuals who are like me—formers who, at one time, were lost in their own ways and eventually found the light; a place where negatives could be transformed into positives, and where poor decisions could be leveraged as life lessons to grow humanity in a positive, upward direction. I was amazed and delighted to find that all of us, no matter our stories or backgrounds, had so much more in common than we did different. Overcome with joy, I finally knew that I wasn’t alone.
Full of gratitude for having found a way out of the lives we once led and for having found one another, a handful of us came together during the course of this event and made a commitment—from that point forward, we would work together, sharing our knowledge and personal narratives in an effort to help others. During the months following S|A|V|E, we’ve experienced an organic period of growth and evolution, and that was just the beginning!
Thanks to the recognition of the importance of kindness and compassion in their own respective transformations, Arno Michaelis, Christian Picciolini, Angie Aker, and a few of their closest friends, built an enduring foundation for what we’ve all come to know as Life After Hate. It was this foundation that was offered as a platform to see our commitment to fruition and to truly effect positive change—to teach via personal narrative, to inspire, to grow the character-building movement of Kindness Not Weakness, and to become better human beings by exploring the triumph of love, honesty, openness, and compassion in our daily lives.
Fifteen months later, we find in Life After Hate a place of shelter and safety, a growing community of individuals who embrace the idea that true strength is not wielded with fists or weapons, but is instead realized with the compassion to recognize suffering in others and the ability to show kindness, especially to those who are not yet in a place to reciprocate. The Life After Hate community is all-inclusive, and has expanded its reach to include far more than former racists or former gang members—this community has grown from a seeded idea of exploration, to a blossoming social movement that offers a much-needed, fresh approach to some of today’s most pressing social issues.
The continued evolution of Life After Hate, including the unveiling of our new website and the launch of our newest movement of positive social change, Kindness Not Weakness Warriors, would not be possible without each and every one of you. As such, it is with immense gratitude, love, and respect that we thank you, our ever-expanding Life After Hate family, for your presence and involvement, which continues to inspire us on a daily basis. We’d also like to send our heartfelt thanks to eBoost Consulting, as well as Community Boost Consulting, for sharing their time, resources, and energy to help us achieve this next step in our evolution.
This is the celebrated beginning in a new chapter for Life After Hate, and we invite you to take this step into the future with us! Please make yourselves at home in the Life After Hate community. Engage with us. Share your triumphs and struggles. Donate, facilitate, volunteer. Help us send a message of kindness, compassion, and basic human goodness to communities around the world!
Issue 33 of Life After Hate began with Carlos Eduardo Oliveira Ramalho’s article, Depoimento de Alan Roberto Lima, Rio de Janeiro, Brasil, which chronicles Mr. Lima’s journey from crime to peace.
LAH author Charlie Ryder brought us the inspirational story of Sonia “Sunny” Jacobs and her story of wrongful conviction, strength, and decision to choose forgiveness over anger in Stolen Time: One Woman’s Inspiring Story as an Innocent Condemned to Death.
We were delighted to welcome new author, artist, and sage Harvey Taylor, who penned and performed the beautiful bit of sense-heightening introspection in Break the Vicious Cycle.
Barefoot: In the Land of Ayiti – Part 3, was the final installment of Sharon Barefoot’s story of awakening, compassion, and kinship as a volunteer nurse in Haiti. Many thanks to Sharon for sharing this inspiring journey with us!
Life After Hate was honored to welcome back Tahir Wadood Malik with, Orphaned By Extremism—a piece about the compelling reality of terrorism’s effect on children.
To commemorate the eleventh anniversary of 9/11, James Zarate penned an inspirational article about Carie Lemack, whose mother, Judy Larocque, was on American Airlines Flight 11 with, A Life My Mom Would Be Proud Of.
Callen Harty again blessed us with the thought-provoking piece, Freedom, a pledge to continue persevering in the endless struggle to secure basic human rights for all human beings.
Growing up in South Florida, Angela King struggled with her identity. She became confused about the messages she received from her church and family on issues like sexual identity and racial stereotypes. Disenfranchised, Angela began acting out and felt welcomed for the first time by a group of racist Skinheads: "They were angry and hated everyone. They made me feel like part of a family." Entrenched in the racist underground, crime became an increasingly important part of Angela's life. Though the 1995 Oklahoma City bombing made Angela reconsider her beliefs, she knew that abandoning her Skinhead affiliates would result in retaliation. Angela was arrested in 1998 and sentenced to six years in prison for her part in an armed robbery of a Jewish-owned store. Angela was released from prison three years early, in 2001, for good behavior and cooperation with the authorities. She has since graduated from the University of Central Florida with an M.A. in Interdisciplinary Studies. Angela routinely works as a keynote speaker, consultant, correspondent, and character educator in schools, communities, religious centers and elsewhere. She has been interviewed by the Southern Poverty Law Center, National Public Radio, and the National Resource Center for Racial Healing, among others, and has received several recognitions and awards for her dedication and support of Prejudice Reduction, Building Communities of Justice, as well as Holocaust education. Some of Angela's recent activities and work include: delegate and panelist at the Google Summit Against Violent Extremism, held in Dublin, Ireland, in June 2011; panelist at a 9/11 related commemoration event sponsored by the Department of Homeland Securities' Consortium for the Study of Terrorism and Responses to Terrorism program, held in Washington D.C. in September 2011; Editor In Chief and Character Educator at LifeAfterHate.org; and is currently writing a memoir vis-á-vis her time inside and out of the racist underground.