Courtesy of the Tariku Kamisa Foundation
In 1995, 14-year-old Tony Hicks was involved with a Southern California gangster. One night, Tony shot and killed him when he and a fellow gang member tried to steal a pizza delivery driver.
The driver was Tariq Khamisa, a 20-year-old student at San Diego State University.
Tony was charged as the youngest adult in California. He served most of his sentence in the largest prison before being released in 2019.
It was a prison visit room, and a few years after his sentence, he first met Tariq’s father, Azim Kamisa.
In a recent remote StoryCorps conversation from San Diego, he and Azim talked about healing, forgiveness, and the unlikely friendships they formed.
“It took me five years to develop enough courage to come to see you,” Azim, now 71, told Tony, 40.
They met in 2000. Before meeting, Tony felt uneasy.
“I felt so scared of what I did that I wanted to do something to help you heal in some way,” he said.
Azim remembered being surprised at Tony’s calmness at the time.
“You didn’t portray the typical attitude of a 19-year-old in our culture,” he said.
Tony was 15 years old when he was found guilty and put in juvenile prison. At the age of 16, he moved to Folsom when California moved a boy prisoner with an adult to the state prison system.
“To survive there, I had to grow a little and mature,” he told Azim.
Tariku Kamisa Foundation
At trial, Tony’s guardian, his grandfather, Presferix, became friends with the Kamisa family and promised to help them in the way he could. Azim and Ples have forged a deep friendship. The two founded a Restorative Justice Foundation under the name Tariq, also known as the TKF, the Tariq Khamisa Foundation.
Tariq loves to take pictures, National Geographic One day.
Azim said his first encounter with Tony was a tough moment.
“One of the questions I had with you was if Tariq said something to you, as you were the last person to meet him,” he said. “We had our eyes closed for a long time. It was a pain.”
Tony called it “the most difficult conversation in life.”
“You regretted,” Azim told Tony. “You were responsible for your actions, and at that moment I knew that your sparks were no different from my sparks.”
It was at that moment that Azim told Tony that he had forgiven him.
“Your forgiveness weighed heavily on me,” Tony said. “I didn’t feel right for myself because I knew what I robbed you of, but your example gives me space to work to understand that it’s worth being forgiven. He gave me. “
However, Azim wondered why he had been waiting for five years and left a conversation.
“I always felt that forgiveness was what you gave yourself,” he said. “I grew up in the Sufi tradition. I think it helped me a lot to know that I didn’t want to live my life in anger and revenge. And after our first meeting, my steps Much more elastic than leaving the prison I was walking with … it was a gift, and I’m honored to do it. “
When Tony was released from prison, he said, “I wanted to go back to where I killed Tariq and bring the past and present together at that moment. I reaffirmed that I was the one who turned into Tariq and I wouldn’t. I wanted to. Don’t waste this opportunity. “
“I liked what you said, Tony –’to bring your past and present together’,” Azim said. “If it makes you a better person, the pain is not a bad thing. That’s the way I feel that there was a journey for me.”
While he was in jail, Tony began volunteering at TKF. He maintained his blog, recorded video interviews, and talked to students about his experience. San Diego Tribune report. He continues to work with the Foundation today.
“You are very grateful to the people I am today for knowing you and welcoming you to my life,” Tony told Azim.
Audio produced for Morning Edition By Maitra Bonshahi and Sylvie Rubow. Emma Bowman of NPR has adapted it to the Web.
StoryCorps is a national non-profit organization that offers friends and loved ones the opportunity to interview their lives. These conversations are archived at the American Folk Life Center in the Library of Congress, allowing participants to leave a legacy for future generations. For more information, including how to interview someone in your life StoryCorps.org..
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