By J. K. Schmid, Special to the AFRO
Violence has been a part of Darryl Green’s life since his youth. He’s lost a brother and a son to murder in Baltimore. He almost gave into vendetta at first, but he’s learned to forgive and is sharing his message and story with what he calls Deep Forgiveness.
“I work with the Moms of Murdered Sons,” Green told the AFRO. “They have me come in and speak. A lot of the women in there were thinking about suicide, still had a gun in their hand….wanting to find out who did it, so they can do harm. The same way that I did.”
Green’s younger brother was stabbed to death over a pair of tennis shoes in 1988. Twenty-five years later, he testified on behalf of his brother’s killer for his early release.
It’s the foundational story of Green and Deep Forgiveness, a program he helms to help people of all ages deal internally and interpersonally with the most extreme and banal kinds of human conflict.
It’s a gripping tale of revenge, one where Green was on the hunt, pistol in hand. He says, however, that’s only a small part of his story. Reconciliation is the other part; he’s always focused on healing, and getting past things like retribution and reciprocity.
“As long as you don’t forgive and you don’t move towards healing, that situation owns you. It controls you,” Green said. “Only when you do that, move towards healing, move towards reconciliation, will you be free.”
He’s taken this message across the world, to Aruba, Jamaica and Ghana. He’s just returned from a talk in Hawaii.
Green started his college education in criminal justice, attaining a bachelors of arts. He then moved on to earn a master’s in social work. He attributes being able to come at Baltimore’s problems and his problems from these two different mindsets gives him the fuller understanding of how punishment and forgiveness can work.
“For me, forgiveness is like the utopia,” Green said. “Sugar and spice, and everything nice, it’s the land of happiness, pure and pleasant, you want no more. That’s the utopia. Forgiveness, that’s the final deal.”
Before going into this work on his own, Green was last working for Christopher’s Place, overseeing 60 beds for some of Baltimore’s most vulnerable residents.
Two years ago, he left the security of a steady paycheck to help others move on and up.
“My light and your light may not be the same,” Green said. “And so, your light may be ’I’m able to get out of bed for the first time in a month,’ ‘I’m able to take those black trash bags off my windows and let some light in since my son was killed, or my child was killed, a loved one was killed or taken away.’ That’s one extreme aspect of it. ‘I’m able to breathe again.’ So, we just try to help folks to breathe.”
On the other side, away from the extreme, Green works on smaller conflicts, too. From mundane parking disputes, neighbor’s trash, and old hurts from high school and college.
“I didn’t really realize how [much] in pain folks were,” Green said of his start. “I didn’t realize. Some folks still holding onto things that happened in high school and that’s dictating your life. Somebody called you this, somebody called you that. Somebody called you this, and you’re still holding onto that.”
Diffusing conflict in high school is a focus of Green’s work, an attempt to intervene at the age when he too, was just as vulnerable.
When he was still working his program on the premises of Frederick Douglass High School, a school dress code dispute between a principal and a student was rapidly accelerated to a point where security or the police were called in to remove a student.
Green asked for a chance to intervene, and learned the student had lost his own brother to murder over winter break. The young man was still haunted by white snow turning red, and when he was asked to remove his hat, he snapped. Green says he was able to talk the student and the principal down.
Green hopes his work can continue where he can address grief and anger before things come down to force, either between Baltimoreans or Baltimoreans and their police.
“What freed me was forgiveness, because I couldn’t continue to be angry,” Green said. “That was a weight. That was a baggage. That was bondage.”
Deep Forgiveness is a 501(c)(3) and is currently seeking grant funding and accepting donations to fulfill the mission of the organization.