Beyond the Bullet: Building a Life After Violence
“I’m Leon Harris. I’m a husband. I’m a father. I’m funny as hell. I’m in a wheelchair. I’m saved. I’m going to be rich. I take life as it comes, and I’m proud to be Black.” Leon is awesome, for sure, but his positive outlook on life has been a long time in the making.
At age 17, Leon was a victim of an armed robbery on his way home from work one evening. The violence left him paralyzed, and he has been in a wheelchair for 14 years. Leon is part of a group of remarkable men and women in Philadelphia that gather to share a journey of trauma—the Gun Violence Survivors’ Support Group. Group members gather to collectively heal, support and uplift each other.
Headlines may convey death tolls from gun violence. But what they don’t chronicle are the formidable challenges of being a survivor.
OC87 Recovery Diaries is proud to present the fifth in our series “Beyond the Bullet: Gunshot Violence Survivors Speak.” The series presents members of the Gun Violence Survivors’ Support Group telling of their journeys of pain and healing, isolation and community, and, most beautifully, stories of recovery, love and support.
While Leon has experienced a great deal of pain and loss in his life, love and laughter have been key ingredients for his recovery. And therapy is also a key component to his wellness.
Leon and his wife, Tierra, have been married since 2014. They are parents to daughter, Noel, since 2017. They host a YouTube channel titled “Harris Hope and Humor,” wherein they navigate life as an interabled couple with a child in a very public manner, to inspire others who may be traveling a similar journey.
I hope you enjoy listening to and learning from Leon as much as I have. All of the voices in this series deserve our attention. Their lives are the window into the very human suffering that gun violence has on our society. Yet their stories are filled with a strength and resilience that is awe-inspiring.