Lead Story West Edition

Antwone Fisher leads forum on ending violence, abuse

SOUTH LOS ANGELES — His life story has already been made into a movie, but Antwone Fisher was at Holman United Methodist Church April 7, retelling that story at a conference promoting healthy manhood that was staged by Positive Results Corporation.

The conference focused on the issues of domestic violence, sexual abuse and ways to promote healthy manhood.

Fisher recounted his story of being born to a woman in prison and being sexually abused by his foster mother’s daughter starting when he was 5.

“I started writing a book and a script about my experiences in foster care and living on the streets,” Fisher told the audience. “I wrote them as a way to forgive my foster parents. It was picked up by Sony and ‘Antwone Fisher’ was made into a movie starring Derek Luke and directed by Denzell Washington.”

Pausing, he added that sexual abuse is happening to boys as well as girls.

“Men have been molested by women. We have to protect our boys the way we protect our girls,” he said.

“Too many boys, girls and women are victimized every day,’’ said Kandee Lewis, executive director of the Positive Results Corporation who added that April is Sexual Assault Awareness Month. “One in four women in her lifetime will be sexually assaulted or physically abused and when you are black or Latino, those statistics [change] to one out of two.

“The number of homes destroyed, lives lost and families displaced because of domestic violence is continuing. We believe men can play a major role in preventing and ending abuse,” Lewis said.

“Like racism, violence is a learned behavior,” said Rev. Kelvin Sauls, senior pastor at Holman. “Let’s break the generational curse and start a cycle of joy and healing.’’

“The way we treat people starts at home,” said moderator Bishop K. Donnell Smith Sr., a domestic violence facilitator. “People shy away from therapy. They think its brainwashing, but it’s a safe space for you to say what you have to say. Even though assaults may have happened to you in the past, those experiences can still affect you and your family.”

Assemblyman Reginald Jones-Sawyer, who represents South Los Angeles in Sacramento, said he is asking for $100 million to combat what he called “post traumatic street disorder.”

“Many men are dealing with trauma from surviving on the streets which is affecting their mental health,” he said.

Khalid Shah, executive director of the Inglewood-based nonprofit group Stop the Violence, Increase the Peace that offers classes in parenting, anger management, domestic violence and substance abuse, urged attendees to seek out a local group that teaches anger management.

“Make sure that somebody recognizes your problem,” Shah said. “Tell your parents or school principal if you are experiencing sexual abuse or domestic violence.”

Audience member Oscar Morales said he enrolled in Shah’s anger management class.

“I didn’t know what domestic abuse was because I grew up witnessing a lot of verbal and physical abuse going on between my mom and dad. I thought that was normal,” he said. “Plus, there were a lot of drugs in the household.”

What Morales saw in his household adversely affected his relationships.

“Thank you, Mr. Shah. Your class has taught me a lot about how to manage my anger.”

Skipp Townsend, executive director of 2nd Call, a violence reduction and re-entry program based in South Los Angeles, said he had also grappled with anger as a youth.

“I became an abuser in a domestic violence relationship,” he said. “But I saw the cycle of violence I was perpetrating and I realized that my behavior hurt people. I realized that when you change your thought processes, you can change anything. You have the power to harm or to heal.”

Townsend, whose organization counsels 350 people every week, added, “2nd Call stresses healing, perseverance and success.”

Brent Burton, a Los Angeles County fire captain and founder of the Junior Firefighter Youth Foundation, said, “Five percent of life is what happens to you and 95 percent is how you respond to it.”

He advised audience members to practice mindfulness if they find themselves in a stressful situation. “Calm down, take a pause and count to 10.”

Jaime “Rarebreed” Gregory, an executive board member of the Southern California Cease Fire Committee who served time and became a gospel rap artist, said, “I came from an abusive household. I took beatings at home like I was a runaway slave. But you have the power to say, ‘I don’t want to be in that situation.’”

Jared Morgan, a community outreach and education manager for the Westside Family Health Center, advised young audience members to “Look up to mentors. Find an older person to follow.”

Several panelists delivered advice to the youths in the audience.

Ryan Hollins, a former basketball player at UCLA and a 10-year NBA veteran, talked about overcoming obstacles.

“When I was at UCLA, my coach and I didn’t get along,” he said. “I spent a lot of time on the bench. I was spending all of my energy and frustration on disliking my coach. But I had to lose that frustration and negative energy. I couldn’t control my coach, but I could control the best me that I could be.

“Find something that you love and are passionate about. Think about the positive support around you,” he advised.

Karim Webb, co-owner of several Buffalo Wild Wings franchises, advised the young people, “Nothing is easy. You have to be committed and stick to your dreams if you want success. You’ve got to believe in yourself and show up.”