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Terry ‘Uncle T’ Williams of Challenge 2 Change poses for a group photo with about 20 young people
Black Stories

Terry ‘Uncle T’ Williams: Show compassion in hopes that healing will prevail

Black History Month

This Black History Month, we recognize the importance of Black leadership, advocacy, and resilience in the gun violence prevention movement. Throughout February, we’ll be highlighting the important work of Black Americans who are on the front lines of fighting the gun violence crisis in their communities.

I operate from a deeper place when it comes to relating to the loss, trauma, and pain of gun violence. I lost my firstborn child as well as other family members and friends to gun violence in Baltimore, Maryland. But I didn’t allow my pain to numb me, I allowed it to free me. So rather than becoming bitter, I became better so I could help others along the journey of healing.

After my son’s death, I founded Challenge 2 Change, a program that empowers Baltimore youth, ages 7 to 24, with the tools like conflict resolution and mentorship as well as youth development activities. Our day-to-day work is to perpetuate love and to constantly be patient with our fragile youth. My role is to oversee the program and make sure that we are exhibiting the right attitude to reach our youth.

One of the ways to approach our youth who suffer from trauma is constant engagement. We believe in going to them and not waiting for them to come to us. Many of my staff are not strangers to trauma, so we understand how fragile and sensitive this area can be for many of our mentees. We go to some of the scenes of gun violence in Baltimore when we’re able, and the first thing we do is engage with the crowd and tell them how important it is to keep the children from seeing bodies laying on the ground bleeding.

Rather than becoming bitter, I became better so I could help others along the journey of healing.

A memorable moment was when I witnessed a child around 11 years old walk through a puddle of blood left over from a shooting, and he immediately broke down emotionally. I begin to ask the child about his connection with the young man that got killed. He said that the young man would always encourage him to go to school and do the right thing and not to get caught up in this street life. I will never forget that moment.

At Challenge 2 Change, we teach our youth who have been affected by gun violence in Baltimore that “retaliation after retaliation only leads to annihilation” where no one wins. And that they have the power to stop the perpetual killing by not retaliating.

The advice I have for other advocates is to continually engage with those who have been affected by shootings and killings in their neighborhoods. And to show compassion and a deep sense of caring in hopes that healing will prevail. We teach our youth here at Challenge 2 Change that it’s what you do for others that determines what God would do for you and through you. Love truly conquers all!

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