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Brian Herron: Embracing forgiveness and service
has lived and breathed the practice of forgiveness in his
It is only recently, after years of personal struggle, that he
has made the choice to be free of the anger that often led him to destructive choices in life.
was raised in Kansas City in an all-Black community until the age of 15.
As a boy he
learned to fight, and while he
knew it was wrong and his
conscience bothered him afterward, he
fought hard and often to prove he
"The sad part is I wasn't really tough.
I would actually cry after fights and was conflicted about my feelings.
I didn't really want to fight," says Herron
A few years before his
family moved to Minneapolis, the school district Herron
belonged to in Kansas City started redistricting.
The changes moved him and some of his
junior high school friends to an all-White school in an all-White neighborhood.
Herron's passion as a boy was football.
moved to West Junior High School
as a seventh grader, he
immediately went out for the team.
Herron knew he was a good player, but the coach at his new school found excuses not to play him.
learned firsthand of societal ignorance and prejudices, he
buried the feelings of resentment.
Unjust actions and words simmered in him, and he
found no outlet to overcome the anger he
"I became violent because I let the pain and anger in my life control my actions - even when I knew better," explains Herron
"As time went on, it took little to nothing to fight someone who was White."
was in high school, his
family moved to Minneapolis and his
first impression was very positive.
noticed that the overt racism he
had experienced in KC was missing here, and he
was impressed by how nice White people were to him.
However, the underlying prejudices that eventually manifested themselves in that first year were even more devastating to Herron
, because in the end he
opportunity to play football.
"My dad didn't support football because he
wanted me to focus on grades.
My coach wouldn't roster me, and at that point my descent into darkness began," says Herron
"The problem was that the rage had already settled in my heart.
I bought the lie that things won't change, and I lost hope.
I fell into a group of kids that were often in trouble and soon, I was taking part in the self-destructive violence that they practiced."
went to college in Atlanta, GA, and for a while he
was able to hold good jobs and generally stay out of trouble.
married and did his
best to support three children that he
loved very much, but after an incident with the police that resulted in him being temporarily placed in jail under assault charges that he
felt were unfair, he
"I was filled with rage toward anyone in authority, especially the police," says Herron
"All I wanted to do was party and get high."
job and his
no longer attended church and describes himself as "very lost.
It was during this time that Herron
started recognizing that many people had reached out to try to help him.
"I had no fear at this point," says Herron
"I went out with my police officer partner and often by myself to close down crack houses or talk with problem people in the community where I worked.
I felt good."
People began encouraging Herron
to run for office, so he
ran for the Minneapolis City Council
and was elected.
He is very thankful for his time on the council, and in spite of trouble at the end of his term that landed him in prison for a year; he knows that these were very important years.
It was his
time in prison that finally led him to the calling he
had ignored for so much of his
While in prison, Herron
was able to minister to others.
began to read the Bible in earnest, spoke with chaplains and pastors, and eventually began preaching to his
Upon his release, Herron went to work for GMCC and helped create the Community Justice Project (CJP), a program that partners with churches to recruit and train people to mentor an inmate during incarceration and through the reentry period.
roles as senior pastor at Zion Baptist Church
in Minneapolis and his
leadership position at CJP
is finally certain that he
is answering his
has learned the practice of forgiveness and understands his
role in helping others struggling with injustice to find healing.