In 1990, Tony Hicks came to live with his grandfather after a young life overexposed to violence, gangs, abuse, rejection, and rage. Ples was a role model, boundary, and passionate grandfather to Tony but the teenage years were difficult. One afternoon in January 1995 Tony ran away from home to be with the wrong crowd. That night, after a day of drinking and drugs, Tony became part of a pizza delivery robbery. He was given a loaded handgun and told to shoot the driver who had refused to give up the pizzas.
Tony murdered twenty-year- old Tariq Khamisa, an innocent young man working his way through college. At the age of fourteen, Tony became the youngest juvenile in California to be charged and convicted as an adult. He was sentenced to 25 years to life in prison. Tony’s first parole hearing is scheduled for 2018.
In September 1995, Mr. Felix received word through the District Attorney’s Office that Azim Khamisa, the father of Tariq, wanted to meet him. “It was a God-inspired meeting and with a handshake I committed to do anything to help his family.” As an unbelievable act, the Khamisa family chose to forgive Tony and saw there were victims on both ends of the gun. Ples joined Mr. Khamisa in launching TKF and together they have channeled their pain into real action that successfully addresses youth violence. Over the last twenty years Ples and Azim have developed a strong and genuine brotherly bond. Together they have delivered their messages on the realities and harm of violence, practicing forgiveness, and becoming peacemakers to more than one million children locally and internationally.
“Our world is in urgent need of TKF’s powerfully, sustainable messages of forgiveness, empathy, compassion, peace, and love for all children as a primary doctrine of learning in every school and in every village in our world.” Mr. Felix is a leader dedicated and passionate in his mission to ensure that our children, regardless of their backgrounds or struggles, have the strategies for a strong foundation, support in healing, and opportunities for achievement. Ples looks forward to the day when his grandson joins him in TKF’s transformational efforts.
Students at Knox Middle School in Lincoln Park took a departure from their regular studies Tuesday and instead learned about forgiveness and peace.
The Azim Khamisa Foundation visited the school to teach children about the choices they make and how to learn to forgive.
The foundation started two decades ago after 20-year-old Tariq Khamisa who was delivering a pizza was murdered as part of a gang initiation by 14-year-old Tony Hicks.
Khamisa’s father, Azim, forgave his son’s killer and asked the boy’s grandfather, Ples Felix, to join him in spreading the message of peace to kids which they’ve been doing for 20 years at Hicks Middle School and other schools around San Diego and the country.
“To teach the principles of non violence to teach the principals of empathy, compassion, forgiveness and peacemaking because violence is a learned behavior,” said Azim Khamisa about the foundation’s goals.
“To teach the value of peacemaking in a way that makes their world, their schools, their homes, communities a lot better place for us to be,” said Ples Felix.
Two men linked by a tragedy that occurred 20 years ago have come together and are spreading their message of peace to children at the middle school level.
Tariq Khamisa had just made a pizza delivery in North Park when suddenly there was a gun in his face. As he rolled up the car window, he was shot to death by a 14-year-old boy.
Still a child, Tony Hicks was convicted of murder and sentenced to prison.
Ironically, Hicks’ grandfather and the father of his victim formed a bond after the tragic night in 1995. Together, they tour schools and urge students to forgive.
Azim Khamisa told reporters outside the assembly at Knox Middle School, “Our mission is to stop kids from killing kids; breaking the cycle of youth violence.”
The gunman’s grandfather, Ples Felix Jr., added, “We’re trying to help kids understand that a bully needs forgiveness because he was probably harmed by somebody else and is carrying harm with him.”
Knox Middle School eighth grader Abdasai Suarez said he learned “not to hold anger towards them; if they do something to you, not go back and do something back at them.”
It’s a message that’s been spread to other countries as well.
Azim Khamisa and Ples Felix faced their audience Tuesday, nearly 200 eighth-graders at San Diego’s Knox Middle School. The students bounced in their seats, distracted by friends, minds crammed with equations and historical dates, nervous systems jittery with hormones.
“Enough energy in that room to power the Army,” said Felix.
Minutes later, that energy found a laser-tight focus: two men united by senseless violence and unbelievable forgiveness.
On Jan. 21, 1995, Felix’s grandson murdered Khamisa’s son.
Tariq Khamisa Foundation fathers’ Azim Khamisa and Ples Felix told their story of forgiveness to over 500 Knox Middle School students on October 11th.
Nearly all local tv news station as well as print and radio attended and vied for interviews with the leaders as well as the youth and faculty. The message rang loud and clear “we must break the cycle of violence in our schools, communities, and society through forgiveness, compassion, and empathy”. An insipring message demonstrating the hope that lives in the hearts of our youth – our future.
Twenty years ago, the murder of 20-year-old Tariq Khamisa of San Diego by 14-year-old gang member Tony Hicks ripped two families and an entire community apart.
It became the catalyst for an extraordinary act of forgiveness and the inspiration behind the creation of the Tariq Khamisa Foundation, a nonprofit organization dedicated to finding effective methods of stopping the epidemic of youth violence in the United States. TKF works to educate and inspire children in the restorative principles of accountability, compassion, forgiveness, peacemaking and support for safer schools and communities. The one-of-a-kind Safe School Model created by TKF is working in middle schools throughout San Diego county to reach our children with the tools and message of hope. To learn more or to support TKF’s Peacemakers Campaign – visit our website or DONATE NOW. Thank you!
TKF – Tariq Khamisa Foundation
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San Diego, CA 92121
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Six weeks before Tariq Khamisa’s 21st birthday, on a cold Saturday night in January 1995, the San Diego State University sophomore was gunned down while delivering pizza. It was part of a gang initiation, called “Jacking the Pizza Man,” and Tony Hicks, the one being initiated, fired the fatal bullet. He was 14 years old. Read Story