Azim Khamisa | Not in Our Town

Azim Khamisa

Grade Level: 
Middle School (6-8)
High School (9-12)

In 1995, Azim Khamisa's 20-year-old son, Tariq, was delivering a pizza when he was shot to death by a 14-year-old gang member. Experiencing the pain, grief, frustration, and anger that a parent would, Azim decided that the only way he could better the situation was to use the tool of FORGIVE to ensure that this type of tragedy happens less frequently in the future.

After meeting with the father of the boy who shot Tariq, Azim decided that he would bring his message of forgiveness and mutual respect to groups of young people all over the country. The foundation in his son's memory, the Tariq Khamisa Foundation, raises awareness and engages youth to resist a culture of violence and learn to live in harmony with one another.

This lesson addresses the following SEL strategies and you can have students look for these issues and examine them in themselves.

  • Self-awareness: Azim Khamisa goes through all the emotions expected of a parent who has just lost their child. He becomes aware however, that if he doesn’t forgive his son’s killer, he would remain a victim himself. He realizes then that he has the chance and the ability to reach out and teach other young people about nonviolence.
  • Self-management: Azim Khamisa strongly believes in forgiveness and channels the forgiveness he learned from the tragedy into something positive. He turns the death of his son into a motivation and a desire to teach other youth about nonviolence through the Tariq Khamisa Foundation.
  • Social awareness: Azim Khamisa recognizes the “societal forces” that influenced his son’s killer into doing what he did. He also believes in the idea that violence is a learned behavior and that therefore nonviolence can also be learned.
  • Relationship skills: Azim Khamisa reaches out to the grandfather of his son’s killer, Pleis Felix, and asks him to work with him and his foundation. Together, they aim to share their story and teach youth in at risk communities about nonviolence.

1.  Prior to showing the video, briefly explain the primary themes of the video. Use some or all of the following questions (include at least one writing prompt):

a. Think of a time when someone really hurt you emotionally, which may have even changed your life. If you feel comfortable doing so, describe what happened, how you felt at the time, and how you feel about it now. Is there a change at all in how you feel?

b. Have you ever had someone close to you get hurt? What happened and how did it make you feel? Did you do anything about it and, if so, what did you do?

c. Nelson Mandela said, “Resentment is like drinking poison and then hoping it will kill your enemies.” What are your thoughts on this quote? Do you agree or disagree. Explain why.

d. Discuss what the terms “revenge” and “forgiveness” bring to mind for you. For example, do you believe that revenge really helps soothe the pain one feels after being hurt?

2.  After watching the video, engage students in a dialogue about the film using some or all of the following questions (include at least one writing prompt) :

a. What are your thoughts on Azim Khamisa’s decision to forgive his son’s killer? Do you believe it is easy or hard to forgive or would you say it depends on the situation? How about your thoughts on Azim Khamisa’s decision to reach out to Pleis Felix?

b. Azim Khamisa’s foundation, the Tariq Khamisa Foundation, aims to spread the message of nonviolence. Think of some ideas, or ways, in which you can help spread the same message of nonviolence.

c. Discuss what Azim Khamisa is talking about when he mentions “societal forces.” He asks, “Who is the enemy here? Is it the 14-year old that killed my son or is it the societal forces that forced a young African-American boy to join a gang at the age of 11?” As a class, discuss your thoughts or answers to these questions. How did these “societal forces” play a role in what Tony did?

Extension Activities

1. Have the students research the Restorative Justice (RJ) movement both in schools and in the criminal justice system. Make presentations on different people who have used RJ or RJ programs.

2. Have students write essays. What does forgiveness mean to you? Write about a time that you forgave someone and/or were forgiven. How did it feel? What would change in the world if there were more forgiveness?


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