By George Kevin Jordan, AFRO Staff Writer
Everyone has a story, a tale that shaped who they are, or where they have been; but not everyone shares their story. And even fewer people know the power of their life can transform other individuals.
Joshua Samuel knows this. His voice is soft and quiet, but his words grip you. They cut through the minutia and rhetoric or political banter. He just wants to tell you about his life.
And it’s having an impact on people.
Recently Mr. Samuel was named to the 2019 Speakers Bureau for the Community Justice Action Fund (CJAF). CJAF is a national organization working to stop gun violence in communities of color. The organization is unique in that they push for people who have been most affected by gun violence to be in positions of power in order to tell their story and affect change.
Samuel, 25, is a D.C. native, born and raised in the Ward 8. He was arrested and served seven years in prison after an armed robbery. His life was forever changed when his mother suffered a stroke. He joined a book club to “bond with his peers” whose stories were alike in many ways. Samuel says he was doing outreach when he ran into Amber Goodwin, the founder and Executive Director of CJAF. It was a natural fit for him to continue his mission of evoking change with the organization.
Samuel is very blunt about his past, and its impact on his present and future saying, “I was exposed to a lot of violence, mass incarceration, all types of different traumatizing things… I was influenced by the older guys in my community where I was trying to protect myself.”
Heavily involved in sports during high school, Samuel said he was doing the right thing, but he explained, “it’s after school. Coming home from after sports you’re still exposed to that negativity.”
“During those times, those were the hardest days of my life,” Samuel said about his early years, through incarceration.
Once out of prison Samuel recalled the experience as “a wake up call” saying, “I lost so many guys to the streets, so many family members to the streets. I really started to feel like it was my duty…trying to give back. It was my turn to build it up.”
He has immersed himself in all types of books and literature, including “The Secret,” “Rich Dad Poor Dad,” books by Tony Robbins, and said “that really motivated me to come back into the community and change it.”
Samuel is the first to admit that change is a complicated and multi-tiered effort.
“It’s not just about discipline we have to break the cycle,” Samuel explained. “We have to educate these guys. We have to give out resources and and jobs and expose them. I believe to change the community they have to someone they can gravitate to.”
Samuel is definitely up to the task saying, “I know firsthand what it feels like to go through these things and how these guys feel and I know how to relate to them.”
Samuel knows that change is hard. But he believes it’s possible- one story, one day at at time.
“They can transition and just because you had one mishap it doesn’t have to be a lifetime thing,” Samuel said. “They gotta see someone in their community doing it.”
In addition to speaking at events and doing outreach, Samuel also has a clothing line and a brokerage firm with his brother. For more information about Samuel and CJAF please go to the website at https://www.cjactionfund.org.