On August 20, 1980, my friends Ted Fields and Dave Martin and I were shot in the crosswalk by a racist serial killer named Joseph Paul Franklin. Franklin was the original “Lone Wolf” who was trying to start a race war and murdered 22 people in 12 states. He targeted people he considered to be race mixing. I was 15 years old, Dave 18, and Ted 20. We grew up in the same neighborhood. By the time the attack ended, Ted and Dave were dead, and I was covered in the shrapnel from the bullets that exited their bodies. Even though I was a victim, the Salt Lake Tribune blamed me for surviving and posted my name and address in the paper for five straight days. I was targeted again, and the police refused to help me as I called because people were driving by our house with gun, saying “you should have thought about that when you hung out with those niggers.” I wasn’t allowed to go to my friends’ funerals. I was ostracized and had to go into hiding for my own safety. My life was changed forever by this senseless violence. I wish my friends were still alive.
On June 17, 2015, a young white man walked in Emanuel AME Church, in Charleston, South Carolina. A group of Black parishioners were having a Bible study and welcomed him into the church. After about an hour at the conclusion of the Bible study, while praying and holding hands, he killed nine of them.
Five people survived. My life was changed forever.
I’m now a gun violence prevention advocate, sought-after speaker and have written my first book. The most significant change in my life is I now never pray in public with my eyes closed.