On Saturday, October 10 the Los Angeles Brotherhood Crusade family received devastating news about one of its members.
Semaj Clark, a Brotherhood Crusade youth ambassador and student at Cal Poly Pomona was presenting to a national audience at a community safety forum, hosted by the Georgia Juvenile Court System.
After the event, Clark was lured to the 500 block of Yamacraw Village, where three teens reportedly attempted to rob him. When Clark turned and ran from the scene, he was shot three times by a 17-year old assailant: twice in the arm and once in the back.
Police at the scene reported finding Clark suffering from non-life threatening gunshot wounds. Follow-up reports seem to suggest that Clark is expected to make a full recovery. Unfortunately, Semaj is now paralyzed from the waist down.
To date, doctors are marginally hopeful that the young man will ever walk again. Moreover, because the bullet shattered in the spinal cord, there still remains a significant threat of complication. Therefore, the suggestion, whether real or perceived, that Clark is “out of the woods” is both premature and misleading.
Clark grew up in the South Los Angeles area with a number of adverse childhood experiences. He was removed from his mother by the Department of Children and Family Services at a young age and never had a father figure in his life. Ushered around from foster home to foster home, Semaj was mentally, physically and sexually abused by the very individuals who were charged to protect him. Eventually, he turned to the streets seeking some semblance of family and protection. This life trajectory found him in and out of the juvenile justice system and committing a litany of offenses.
]Eventually, Clark was placed in a loving home where his foster mother and his probation officer strongly encouraged his enrolment in the Brotherhood Crusade BLOOM (Building a Lifetime of Options and Opportunities for Men) program, an initiative of the California Community Foundation.
Initially, reluctant, he eventually discovered a sense of love and family like none other he had ever known. As he continued to grow, Semaj discovered his talents, ignited his passion and underwent an incredible transformative change in his attitudes, behaviors and beliefs.
He earned his High School Equivalency Test certification (similar to a GED) and gained consistent employment through the Brotherhood Crusade YouthSource Center. He was then accepted to and enrolled in Mt. San Antonio College and Cal Poly Pomona, simultaneously. While studying Mandarin and matriculating through school, he self-produced two albums featuring his socially conscious rap music. He further assumed a lead youth ambassador role with the Brotherhood Crusade Brother, Sons and Selves Coalition, an initiative of The California Endowment that seeks to effectuate change with respect to the policies and systems that most impact boys and men of color.
Clark’s social justice and community change efforts also led him to meet with numerous policy and systems leaders and educate them about the challenges highly urbanized boys and men of color face on a daily basis, including Los Angeles City Councilmen Curren Price and Marqueece Harris-Dawson, California Assemblymembers Reggie Jones-Sawyer, Steve Bradford and Isadore Hall, State Senator Holly Mitchell, US Congresswoman Karen Bass and President Barack Obama.
Today, Clark is pursuing a career as a social justice civil rights attorney as well as a socially conscious rap artist. He maintains a 3.0 GPA at Cal Poly Pomona and a 2.8 GPA at Mt. San Antonio College. He has purposed his life to helping similarly situated young people self-actualize, address their adverse childhood experiences and change the narrative and trajectory of their lives.
At the conference in Savannah, Clark shared intimate details about his challenging upbringing, his perennial involvement with the juvenile justice system and his dramatic life-changing transformation as a result of his involvement with the Brotherhood Crusade.
He further shared the importance of providing young people who are struggling with a commitment to street socialization and issues of chronic adversity with highly-intentional and purposed youth development programming that is holistic, comprehensive and designed to provide a life course framework similar to his journey with Brotherhood Crusade.
Brotherhood Crusade remains prayerful and optimistic in its wishes for a full and speedy recovery. However, the organization desires to assure that the severity of this tragic incident and its future impact are not ignored.