In October of 2016, I was in an Uber headed to the Boyle Heights Youth Technology Center in Los Angeles.
I was angry and disturbed when I arrived, having traveled through Skid Row, an area that contains one of the largest populations of homeless people in the United States.
With each block of pop up tents, prostitutes, drug addicts and drug dealers, my conscience was further awakened.
Did that guy, the one with the red shirt sitting in the fold up chair, just sell drugs to that dude?
How had I passed through here before and not noticed this microcosm of our economy where products and people are being traded in kind and sold for cash?
How is it possible in Los Angeles, the seat of creativity, that we have the largest number of homeless veterans in the country?
In what world is it acceptable that we casually drive through a sidewalk based homeless village of thousands?
This is what happens when you become an activist. A veil is lifted that can never be replaced.
It is impossible to deny what I see.
I am the founder of a movement to stop gun violence called, Stop Stuff (www.stopstuff.com). We
I arrived at the Center, an oasis, where at risk students were glittering with excitement, ready to be acknowledged for their progress and successes.
The kids, some a little older, up to age 24, some on probation, some in need of training, development and encouragement were all smiles.
This is where I met Anthony Nelson, a slim, 20 year old with bright eyes and earphones around his neck.
Music was his passion.
We connected instantly over my STOP hat.
Anthony loved the hat. So, I gave him one and we talked. He loved the symbolism of the hat, called it a “metaphor” and told me he was proud to wear it.
I recorded him on video so he could share his thoughts and send a message to the world.
He said, "We gotta stop killing our own people...and come up with a better solution...cause more bodies are gonna pile up.”
He encouraged people to, “strategize and look forward to a brighter future”.
While my hope and vision for the world is to stop gun violence and empower people to become activists in their own right, my greatest joy is connecting with people and learning about their personal dream for themselves and the world.
This is the best thing about being an activist.
Anthony was murdered on December 27, 2016, at 20 years old, by stabbing.
This is the worst thing about being an activist.
His death was reported without a name.
I hope those of you with STOP hats will bow your heads in prayer for Anthony and his family and the countless others who are lost to murder on a daily basis.
With his family’s permission, I have set up a GO FUND ME to help support the funeral costs here: https://www.gofundme.com/anthonynelson