Jarell Wilson

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Jarell Wilson describes himself as black, gay, and Christian. He lives in the South and, at times, he struggles to balance these three identities in a society that he says doesn’t embrace two thirds of them. He believes that people often try to put identities into boxes, and that results in stereotypes that lead to stress and conflict. Yet, at the end of the day, Jarell finds beauty and peace all around him. He finds joy in each of these identities.

“Peace comes from knowing that the same beauty you have, all of humanity has.”

In South Africa, right after apartheid, Nelson Mandela was elected president and the people that had been in the majority, the Boers, were afraid. They said: “Oh no, the black people are in the majority, they have control of the Army, and they are going to kill us. They’re going to want revenge.” Nelson Mandela gets this crazy idea: Let’s share our stories and that will bring peace. So there’s a giant tribunal. And people bring forward their stories and present them to the people who have done them wrong.

They ended each and every session with “I forgive you.” People repenting in their hearts for what they’ve done, reconciling, and walking out together, holding hands, hugging each other because they realize we’re all made in the image of God. There’s something beautiful in you and something beautiful in me. There’s beauty in reconciliation.

The trick to peace is remembering that everything is sacred. Everything is holy. For people who are not religious, I’ll say this: Everything is filled with the very essence of awesomeness.

Additional portraits of Jarell

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Jarell Wilson full audio

Discussion Questions

  • What identities do you ascribe to yourself? Are you satisfied with/excited about those identities? Do you feel like they accurately and fully describe you?
  • Is it easy for you to find the beauty inside yourself? What are some inhibitors to finding that beauty?
  • What is so beautiful about reconciliation? How do you understand the relationship between reconciliation and compromise? Do they go hand in hand? Are they always interlinked?
  • Explain in your own words what Jarell means when he says, “The trick to peace is remembering that everything is sacred. Everything is holy… Everything is filled with the essence of awesomeness.”
  • What does it mean to grant peace to another person? What does it look like?

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