Healing Wounds 

Aqeela Sherrills

Wednesday, Apr 19 2006

AQEELA SHERRILLS IS AN ACTIVE PROPONENT of forgiveness. The charismatic head of the Watts-based Community Self-Determination Institute (CSDI), Sherrills has dedicated much of his adult life to helping gang members change theirs. But in January 2004, he had his philosophy directly tested when his son, Terrell, an 18-year-old freshman at Humboldt State University, was shot to death at a party in upscale Ladera Heights, possibly mistaken for a gangbanger.

At the boy’s wake, a grief-stricken Sherrills talked about how his son’s killer would be brought to justice. “But we’re also going to help and forgive that kid,” he said. “We’re going to hold space for the highest possibility of good to show up in him.” In fact, the shooter wasn’t caught. Sherrills says he’s identified the kid through street information, yet he holds fast to his belief in forgiveness. Terrell’s killer is a victim too, he says, “a victim of a culture that lacks compassion.”

As a young man, Sherrills was himself a Crip gang member but, after seeing too many friends die, he decided he wanted to help, not harm. In 1989, at age 19, he co-founded the Amer-I-Can life-skills program with Jim Brown. Then, in 1992, he helped negotiate the famous L.A. Blood-Crip truce. When the truce unraveled, Sherrills and his brother Daude started CSDI, which — among other things — has pioneered a school-dropout retrieval and retention program that’s been adopted by the state of California.

Related Stories

  • We Wish We All Could Be Caprice's Kind of California Girl

    “This is myself with my best friend at the time, frying my skin," says the across-the-pond celebrity Caprice Bourret while looking at old photos, nibbling a scone at high tea at the Culver Hotel. "I used to be such a California girl. I used to fry. Hawaiian Tropic, no sunscreen at all."...
  • Porn Flight 14

    California porn studio Kink.com, which last year came under scrutiny for a condom-free production in which a woman who afterward turned up HIV-positive had performed, said this week that it's opening facilities in Las Vegas. The company, which was investigated by the California Division of Occupational Safety and Health (Cal/OSHA) following...
  • Laker Girls Auditions: 10 Dancers Explain Why It's Their Dream Job

    Most of the hundreds of young women who showed up at the Laker Girl tryouts on Saturday had been dancing their entire lives. Some went to Juilliard. Some danced with world-class ballet companies. Some were professional cheerleaders with NFL teams. Since dance is not a fairly compensated field even at...
  • Eco Cheap

    Los Angeles has some of the highest rents in the nation, and our worst-in-America roads cost us dearly when it comes to wear and tear on our vehicles. But there's one thing we spend less on: Energy. Comparatively, whether we're talking about electricity or natural gas, we don't use that much. And that means...
  • California's Foie Gras Ban Possibly Headed to Supreme Court 3

    It's been two years since California banned the sale and production of foie gras, and it seemed to be a done deal. But a group of attorneys, as well as 13 other states outside of California, are hoping to raise the issue again. In fact, they're hoping to take it...

Sherrills’ newest passion is getting policymakers to see the need for helping inner-city kids heal the emotional damage that too often litters their childhoods. “Violence isn’t between gangs, it’s between people with wounds,” he says. “But I’ve come to believe that where the wounds are, the gift lies.”

Related Content

Now Trending

Los Angeles Concert Tickets


  • 21st Annual Classic Cars "Cruise Night" in Glendale
    On Saturday, spectators of all ages were out in multitudes on a beautiful summer night in Glendale to celebrate the 21st annual Cruise Night. Brand Boulevard, one of the main streets through downtown Glendale, was closed to traffic and lined with over 250 classic, pre-1979 cars. There was plenty of food to be had and many of the businesses on Brand stayed open late for the festivities The evening ended with fireworks and a 50th anniversary concert from The Kingsmen, who performed their ultimate party hit, "Louie, Louie." All photos by Jared Cowan.
  • The World Cup Celebrated And Mourned By Angelenos
    The World Cup has taken Los Angeles by storm. With viewings beginning at 9 a.m., soccer fans have congregated at some of the best bars in the city including The Village Idiot, Goal, The Parlour on Melrose, Big Wang's and more. Whether they're cheering for their native country, favorite players or mourning the USA's loss, Angelenos have paid close attention to the Cup, showing that soccer is becoming more than a fad. All photos by Daniel Kohn.
  • La Brea Tar Pits "Pit 91" Re-Opening
    Starting June 28th, The Page Museum once again proudly unveils the museum's Observation Pit, which originally opened in 1952 but has spent most of the last half century closed. Now visitors can get an up-close look at Pit 91, which is currently under excavation. The La Brea Tar Pits, home of the Page Museum, is one of the world's most famous ice age fossil locations, known for range of fossils from saber-toothed cats and mammoths to microscopic plants, seeds and insects. The new "Excavator Tour" is free with museum admission if purchased online at tarpits.org . All photos by Nanette Gonzales.