It's been more than a decade since a Stanton Heights man—along with his family—created the AR3 Celebration of Life Foundation to honor the brother he lost to gun violence. AR3 organizes basketball tournaments and other youth activities to honor the memory of Anthony Rivers, who was murdered in 2008.
Now, Jason Rivers says he's pursuing a deeper healing through forgiveness and restorative justice.
He spoke about his journey with 90.5 WESA's Elaine Effort.
Below are excerpts of their discussion.
Their conversation has been edited for length and clarity.
On how his feelings of anger evolved into a need to educate:
Losing my brother to gun violence and watching what that did to my family, you know to my mother, to my other siblings, my brother’s children and all those people who loved him, it was heartbreaking.
There’s a large part in the beginning where I was broken. I wanted to hurt myself, you know, retaliate and hurt someone else. And in all those ways, I’m grateful for the handful of people that were around that fought for me when I didn’t see hope any more.
And the way I fight this fight is through educating people on the source of violence and what ways can I be part of a restorative process for self and for community.
On how organizing basketball events through the AR3 Foundation is an appropriate way to honor his late brother:
Basketball was something important to my brother and it was a way for me to keep his legacy alive. And so, we chose to do the league at the home of the former Connie Hawkins League which is one of the rich historical athletic places in our community. We chose that location for a number of reasons. One because of its rich history and two, it’s blocks away from where my brother lost his life.
On why he felt the need to reach out to the person responsible for his brother’s murder:
Through this process of seeking to figure out what forgiveness could look like for me, what healing could look like for me, I knew that there would be a time and a place where I would want to interact with the individuals that were involved in the situation.
I needed to understand what situations could occur in an individual’s life that could lead them to produce an act such as this. And so, for me, that desire ... it’s always been apart of who I am and the work that I’ve done regarding the community, so it was more natural for me. It’s painful because it’s tied to something close to me, but I knew that part of my own healing I needed to release that pain and resentment because that stuff eats away at you.
On what he’s learned about the nature of justice:
The goal is to really understand what does justice even look like. Are we really getting justice from this judicial system in the way that it’s set up, because the way I see it, violence hasn’t stopped? The social ills in our community are still there. So, if long prison sentences actually fixed anything then we wouldn’t be having these problems.
My goal is there has to be an adaptive way we look at this work. That’s my desire and that was the reason why I went to visit that young man and build a relationship with him. And I’m beginning to work with other family members who have had similar experiences like mine.