Victim to Educator: Aswad Thomas Shares His Story

Last Thursday, crime victim survivor, Aswad Thomas, came to Trinity’s campus to discuss how he came to be a leading figure on the battle against gun violence. Born right here in Hartford and raised in Highland Park, Michigan, Thomas was exposed to great violence from a young age and has a background of limited opportunities and multiple challenges. However, among brothers, fathers, and uncles being arrest and friends being killed, he focused on his education and his love for basketball in hopes of forging his own path, beyond what was expected of him.
Despite the many setbacks he had to face, Thomas was the first in his family to get a college degree, and had a whole career in basketball ahead of him when he graduated from Elms College. In 2009, his bright future – or any future for that matter – was put on hold when he got shot in the back and almost saw his life fade away.
During his lecture, Thomas gave us a touching but laid-back description of his traumatic experience, giving the students an insider’s testimony of the reality of many people, but with an outcome far from usual. Despite losing the possibility of continuing his journey which had just began, he was alive. According to Thomas, it felt like a flashback when he had to get back to the community he so much wanted to leave as a kid and teenager. The frustration of being stuck in a reality from which he had gotten so close to leaving behind, Thomas started suffering from psychological disorders: PTSD, anxiety, and depression.
Knowing that the young man who shot him was not so different from the people in the community he grew up in, Thomas did not hold grudges. Hearing him share this experience was touching due to how compassionate and emphatic he sounded at all times. Going through what he did, Thomas didn’t look for revenge, but instead started thinking about ways of eliminating the cycle of endless violence.
Today more money is spent on jails than schools in America. Reallocating resources to low income communities that lack safety and education could shift the hopeless scenario of people that do not receive the opportunities they should.
To start a new life, he moved away to Atlanta until he was offered an accounting job in Corporate America that lead him back to Connecticut, realizing his real ambition was to help his home community, Hartford.
With many investments, Thomas received a degree in social work, but once again his path was changed. Realizing the lack of focus on violence of the course, he helped create an independent study to educate people on mass incarceration, besides creating the Hartford Action, to improve the safety of the town and making people aware to this hidden reality.
At first, not a lot of people were persuaded to get involved, but Thomas to this day persistent in making a change, and with different projects he makes an effort to get crime victims to get the resources they need, change the American juridical system and make the most difference he can to this worldwide issue, and get people to collaborate and lead discussion such as this one, He wants to inform as many young adults as possible so they may become more aware of this issue we all face as a society, and more importantly, know how to make a difference and help those who cannot help themselves.

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