California Crime Victims for Alternatives to the Death Penalty (CCV), based in San Francisco, is a coalition of families, friends, and loved ones of murder victims who oppose the death penalty. The purpose of the coalition is to be a support group for the families and friends of murder victims, giving them the opportunity to share their stories with the public.
The families of the victims surprisingly are against the death penalty. Many people believe that because the life of their loved one has been taken they are justified in taking the life of the murderer, but CCV believes otherwise. They believe that by incorporating the death penalty three things happen: The traumatizing experience of the death causes the family to have to relive the experience of losing their loved one; hundreds of millions of dollars that could be spent on alternatives or victims services are wasted on the murderer; too much attention gets placed on the murderer and overshadows the memory of the victim.
The Southern California Victim Outreach Coordinator is Aqeela Sherrills, who is a campaigner against gang violence in Watts. Apart from being a member of CCV, Sherrills is also the executive director and co-founder of the Community Self-Determination Institute, co-founder of Amer-I-Can and founder of the Reverence Project.
Sherrills, who used to be a member of the Crips gang, has dedicated more than 15 years of his life traveling the world and talking to people about forgiveness and reconciliation and trying to practice it in his own life. He even influenced the 1992 truce between the Bloods and the Crips–a treaty that caused gang homicide in the area to drop 44 percent.
Sherrills got his ultimate challenge in forgiveness, when his son Terrell was shot to death in 2004. He had the opportunity to retaliate but he did not, saying, “I decided that revenge shouldn’t be Terrell’s legacy. I tell people that Terrell’s killer is a victim, too– a victim of a culture that lacks compassion. You can only kill someone if you have a callous heart, so I want to know why this young man had such a callous heart. It’s not enough simply to catch him and throw him away.”
On Thursday April 15, Aqeela Sherrill, The Reverence Project, and California Crime Victims for Alternatives to the Death Penalty will present The “F” Word Exhibition and Dialogue Series: “Forgiveness and Justice” at the Watts Art Gallery from 2 to 5 p.m. The Forgiveness Exhibition will examine forgiveness as a healing process, a journey out of victimhood, and a journey of hope.