Aqeela Sherrills is a spirit-centered activist, working to promote healing in marginalized communities and community ownership of public safety.
Aqeela Sherrills grew up in the Jordan Downs Housing Project in Watts, Los Angeles. A member of the Grape Street Crips, he fled the devastating violence in his community for college. At 19 he began working with football star Jim Brown and co-founded the Amer-I-Can Program, Inc. to heal gang violence around the country by negotiating peace treaties in those cities. In 1992 he brought his message home to Watts itself, and with his brother Daude and a few other key players in the community, forged a historic truce between the Crips and the Bloods in Watts.
When the ceasefire began to fray, the Sherrills brothers created the Community Self-Determination Institute in 1999 to tackle the overwhelming personal and social issues that underlie crime, drugs, and violence, and to draw attention to communities’ Post (and present) Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD).
On January 10, 2004, Sherrills’ 18-year-old son, Terrell, home from studying theater arts in college, was shot in the back at close range. Determined that Terrell’s death not be in vein, Aqeela embarked on a new phase of work and activism, launching The Reverence Project (“TRP”). TRP work has been to create intentional space for individual healing and to develop comprehensive wellness centers in urban war zones to introduce those who suffer from high levels of trauma to alternative healing technologies to support our respective healing journeys.
In 2014, Aqeela was tapped by Newark, NJ Mayor Ras J Baraka to build out his community based public safety initiative. In the 5 years that he’s led the Newark Community Street Team, Newark homicide rate went from 104 in 2015 to 51 in 2019 respectfully.
Aqeela also serves as the Senior Advisor to the Alliance for Safety and Justice’s Shared Safety Initiative----a national nonprofit working to replace justice and prison system waste with common sense solutions that create safe neighborhoods and save taxpayer dollars. In addition to co-founding Crime Survivors for Safety and Justice—the largest survivor network in the country, he’s also a subject matter expert on victim service and community based public safety providing consulting services to The International Association of Chief of Police. His primary focus with Crime Survivors for Safety and Justice is meeting the unmet needs of victims of crime, which includes healing, recovery and prevention.
Nick Muhammad Executive Director of the Black Civic Network (BCN)
Nick is a Twin Cities transplant from Indianola, Mississippi. His journey has brought him from the cradle of white supremacy to the crown of white supremacy in Minnesota. He is a product and advocate for the American Descendants of Slavery ADOS/Black community. As Executive Director of the Black Civic Network (BCN) he is a strong advocate for reparations and repairing of the ADOS/Black families. Under his leadership they have authored the “ADOS Reparative Justice Fund” which is a bill to stabilize the ADOS/Black community and are strong allies in support of the “African American Family Preservation Act”. They are also the consultants on several State, County and Municipal initiatives to impact the ADOS/Black community.
Robert E. Bailey II is the Program, Communications, and Training Team Lead U.S. for Centers for Disease Control and Prevention's Division of Comprehensive Cancer Prevention and Control (DCPC) where his team is responsible for providing funding and guidance to all 50 states and the District of Columbia to advance cancer prevention, early detection and treatment, survivorship supports, and health equity.
He has also served in multiple leadership roles in support of CDC’s COVID-19 response, including Strategy, Policy, Partnerships, and Communications lead for the Chief Health Equity Officer; the Program Deputy for the Community Interventions and Critical Populations (CICP) Task Force, and the Communications Lead for the CICP Task Force. Prior to joining the Division of Cancer Prevention, Robert served as an acting Branch Chief and Team Lead within CDC’s Division of Community Health, where he provided oversight to the development and implementation of multi-sectorial strategies and funding to support national organizations, networks, state, community, and organizational efforts to prevent chronic illness and promote health and wellness for Americans wherever they live, work, play, worship, and learn through community transformation and health equity initiatives. Before focusing on community health, he led national partnerships, campaigns, and mobilization efforts for CDC’s Division of HIV/AIDS Prevention (DHAP), managed the Tuberculosis Epidemiologic Studies Consortium within the Division of Tuberculosis Elimination, and worked as a public health analyst on evaluation practices for DHAP’s Program Evaluation Research Branch. He has also worked as a consultant for non-profits and small businesses on infrastructure, marketing, and evaluation aspects of their organizations
Sam Simmons has over 31-years’ experience as an alcohol and drug counselor and behavioral consultant specializing in culturally sensitive trauma informed strategies and working African American males and their families. He is an Adverse Childhood Experience Interface Trainer in the state of Minnesota.
Sam received the 2016 Healing the Hidden Wounds of Racial Trauma award and the Black Tear Drop Award for his vision and leadership in culturally sensitive trauma informed work in the community and around the country. In 2017 Sam received the Champions for Children Award for his trauma work with parents. In 2018 he received Public Health Hero Award for his unique, innovative, and culturally specific trauma informed work from the City of Minneapolis.
In 2018 Sam was honored by the NFL for his work to end violence against women and interpersonal violence. In 2019 he became project consultant on the Hazelden Betty Ford Foundation Advisory Council on Opioid Use Disorders in the African American Community. Sam is co-host of "Voices” radio show on KMOJ FM that addresses issues of the urban community. He is co-creator of the Community Empowerment Through Black Men Healing conference and for that work in 2018 he received recognition from both Minneapolis and St. Paul Mayors and Minnesota’s’ Governor. “
“A role model is one who is aware that the babies are watching and acts accordingly.” Uncle Big