It all started when...
Aswad was born in Hartford, CT on April 22, 1983. Although, he was born in Hartford, he was raised in Highland Park, Michigan. Highland Park is a city within Detroit, Michigan. He grew up in a single-parent home along with four older brothers. He lived in two communities riddled with systematic and personal barriers that didn’t provide him with many opportunities to succeed in life. They were, and still are, poverty-stricken communities that provides little to no hope for young men of color. As the youngest child in his family, he watched as three of his older brothers and their friends walked the path of destruction. As he viewed the paths that their lives were taking, he promised himself that he wasn’t going to do the same. Aswad went on to excel in the classroom and on the basketball court.
As a junior at Elms College, Aswad helped lead the men’s basketball team to the program’s first-ever and school’s first-ever victory in NCAA Division III Championship play. As a senior, he was named First Team All-New England Collegiate Conference (NECC), was the NCAA Division III Statistical Champion in steals per game (4.6), ranked seventh nationally in assists (7.2), and helped the Blazers to their best-ever national ranking (12). He received the Dr. Joachim Froehlich Award, Elms College Most Prestigious award for achieving athletic and academic excellence, understanding the College’s mission and inspiring his teammates and coaches in Basketball.
On May 6, 2009, He became the first male in his family to graduate from College with a Bachelors Degree in Business Management. Three months later he was on his way to play professional basketball in Europe.
On August 24, 2009, Aswad was just three weeks from going to Europe to play professional basketball when his life changed FOREVER. Aswad became a victim of gun violence. As he left a convenience store in his neighborhood, two men approached him with intent on robbing him. After a brief scuffle eight shots were fired at him as he tried to run back into the store. Two bullets pierced through his back, collapsing his lungs, dislocating his shoulder, and just missing his spinal cord and aorta by inches. These two near-fatal gunshots to his back ended his basketball career. He was released from the hospital back into the same community where the incident happened with little support to heal from this tragedy.
After years of physical and emotional pain, he started a new chapter in his life by becoming one of nation's most outspoken supporters of additional resources for survivors of gun violence in urban communities, and has been a leader in building coalitions across racial lines to address justice reform and gun violence prevention. This has included Aswad’s founding of Hartford Action, a grassroots organization working to empower communities to change policy and improve the relationship between the Greater Hartford community and the justice system.
In October 2014, Aswad was inducted into the Elms College Athletic Hall of Fame and delivered the keynote speech at the Elms College Fall Semester Academic Convocation. U.S. Rep. John Lewis delivered the keynote speech at the school’s commencement ceremony. Two African-American Men that made history at Elms College by delivering powerful speeches that started and ended the 2014-2015 academic year at Elms College.
In 2015, Aswad graduated from the University of Connecticut School of Social Work with a Masters Degree in Social Work and later made history in Connecticut by becoming the first student to ever win the NASW-CT Chapter Social Worker of the Year award, while still being enrolled in school.
Aswad’s story was featured in the New Yorker Magazine, “Black Wounds Matter”, NPR, “Black Men Who Are Crime Victims Have Few Places to Turn, Sacramento Bee, “California's crime survivors must speak out for smart justice, “VICE/The Marshall Project, “How I Came to Terms with the Man Who Shot Me, and the Hartford Courant, “On Hartford Streets, A Life Nearly Derailed by Bullets”, “Hartford Shooting Survivor Stands Against The Violence
Aswad currently serves as the Managing Director for Crime Survivors for Safety and Justice, a flagship project of Alliance for Safety and Justice; He is organizing a national network of crime survivors to include those most commonly affected by violence (including young men of color) and help elevate those voices in local, state and federal policymaking debates. He is also leading a national advocacy effort to ensure that increased federal dollars from the Victims of Crime Act go to community organizations that have better access to and credibility with vulnerable populations typically unserved by current/traditional victims’ services agencies.
Aswad received a MSW, with a concentration in Community Organizing and focused area of study in Urban Issues, from the University of Connecticut, and a B.A. in Business Management from Elms College. He currently lives in Atlanta, GA with his Wife.