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Northern Lights Church will host an interfaith celebration today that will include a special guest speaker portraying a message of peace.
Aqeela Sherrills, who grew up in the community of Watts in Los Angeles, will speak on the importance of developing self-respect, nonviolence and community building, especially among troubled youth. Sherrills spoke at local schools and youth centers to spread his message to local kids as well.
Sherrills, who was involved with gang violence as a youth, eventually developed insight into matters of peace and created a healthy life vision from his experiences in that environment.
At the age of 21, Sherrills effected a peace treaty between the Crips and the Bloods, both Los Angeles gangs, that has held for almost 20 years. He now works with gangs across the United States, and has spoken to the U.S. Congress and the Hague in Amsterdam, also serving as adviser to the governments of Northern Ireland and Serbia.
In 2004, Sherrills' 18-year-old son was gunned down in a drive-by shooting in front of his home in Watts, Calif., while on break from college.
"It's not about who killed my son, but what killed him: a culture with no respect for life. I am not surrendering his life to death, but reclaiming it and giving it new meaning," Sherrills said. "I want to ask (the man who killed his son) what kind of pain drove him to commit this act. Of course, my son's killer deserves to be punished, but mainly I want to keep him alive. I want to invest in him toward a better future for us all.
"My dream is still that children can grow up ... safely and without fear."
Sherrills believes that social, peace and environmental issues all stem from violence, and that violence against ourselves, each other and the natural world is the same violence. He works with teens and adults around the world spreading that message.
The event will be held at 7 p.m. today at Northern Lights Church.