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On Sept. 18, Sammy Rangel, former executive director of Life After Hate, was one of 10 people honored in a special tribute to Everyday Heroes in the Global Campaign Against Violent Extremism and Intolerance in New York City during the week of the United Nations General Assembly. The event highlighted individuals leading the struggle to prevent and counter violent extremism.

The following is the full text of Sammy’s acceptance speech:

This is my first time in New York. I expect nothing less every time I return now. I have brought my own entourage of friends from Collaboraction in Chicago and The HateBrakers in St. Louis, all doing their part in combating violence and hate. The founder of Races for Peace, Leigh Giles-Brown, said she could no longer stand by and just mourn after a violent extremist, who was radicalized online, killed a group of people praying with him. 

Life After Hate is a group of men and women who were once a part of the extremist groups that forced the world to unite in Countering Violent Extremism efforts. I myself was once a small child with no identity, much less a voice. I was given every opportunity to fail and I took them all. I made the world around me hear me as I expressed my pain through extreme violence. 

Today Life After Hate stands with you, not as condemned or violent extremists we once were of the far right — myself as a man once entrenched in a violent war with them — but as stewards of peace and hope; and as evidence that none of us should ever become so hopeless about anyone lost in hate loses faith in that person’s ability to be redeemed or more importantly that you yourself lose faith that you can make a difference in our lives. 

We want to share our gratitude tonight. Despite the barriers our organization has experienced recently. our national community has demonstrated their ability to step off the sidelines, believe in our transformation from hate and in turn support us in this battle.  Until recent events we used our own blood, sweat, tears to engage in these efforts. In the last four weeks this country, one by one, helped us raise more than $400,000 and soon after that UNESCO invited us to accept an embrace by global hope. 

The Global Hope Coalition has demonstrated that even the worst of us can be redeemed and invited to leverage our experience as Formers and professionals toward the goal of reinforcing hope by bearing witness and joining this once-in-a-lifetime cause. 

Life After Hate represents the human capacity that we all have to recover from the very worst types of hate and hurt. And to forgive the very worst types of hate and hurt.  And you, you model and embody the core of human goodness that lives in all of us, by granting us redemption, by inviting us here among such dignified and esteemed world leaders. And for giving this person a voice and a purpose. What I have learned out of this incredible journey of depths and heights is that the best way to fight hate is with your humanity.  We are not heroes. We are however a part of the solution.

Thank you on behalf of our team at Life After Hate.