Aqeela Sherrills is a spirit-centered organizer and activist who has worked for three decades to promote community ownership of public safety and facilitate healing from violence in marginalized communities.
A nationally recognized expert in victim service and community-based public safety, Aqeela has created and led multi-million-dollar nonprofit organizations focused on reducing violence and fostering safety in urban communities and advised The International Association of Chiefs of Police.
Currently, Aqeela is the Co-Founder and leader of the Community-Based Public Safety Collective. This work builds on his work with The Newark Community Street Team community-based violence reduction initiative which he co-created and directed at the request of Newark, NJ’s Mayor Ras Baraka in 2014. In the five years Aqeela led NCST, Newark homicide rate went from 104 in 2015 to 51 in 2019.
Aqeela’s dedication to ending violence and promoting community-based public safety began in Watts, Los Angeles, where he joined the Grape Street Crips before fleeing the violence in his community to attend college. At age 19, Aqeela and Hall of Fame NFL star Jim Brown co-founded the Amer-I-Can Program, Inc. to heal gang violence in cities across the country by empowering individuals to overcome behavior that negatively influenced their lives.
During that time, Aqeela was the chief architect of a historic truce between the Crips and Bloods in Watts. That ceasefire began to fray because of the deep underlying conditions that bred crime, drugs, and violence. Aqeela and his brothers created the Community Self-Determination Institute in 1999 to tackle those personal and social issues, including healing communities’ post (and present) traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).
Aqeela launched The Reverence Project in 2007 to make meaning from his own son’s death. TRP brings together activists, healers, and artists in urban “war zones” to shift the culture from violence, shame, guilt, and fear into one rooted in forgiveness, compassion, reverence, and truth.
In 2012, Aqeela became a lead organizer for Californians for Safety and Justice, building a network of 10,000+ crime survivors in California to improve public safety by placing more responsibility for public safety in community hands. In 2017, he became the National Training Director of The Alliance for Safety and Justice’s Crime Survivors for Safety and Justice Initiative.
Aqeela serves as the Senior Advisor to the Alliance for Safety and Justice’s Shared Safety Initiative, and is a member of the Board of Directors of The Alliance for Safety and Justice, and Chairman of the Board of the Newark Community Street Team.