Former Raleigh gang member reflects on his past, works to heal from trauma

Jamiese Price Image
Wednesday, July 12, 2023
Former Raleigh gang member reflects on past, works to heal from trauma
Raleigh resident Brandon Anderson, once a gang member who served time, is working to heal the community, and himself from the devastation of gun violence.

RALEIGH, N.C. (WTVD) -- Brandon Anderson often reflects on his past.

"A lot of the stuff that I've seen and went through, that can never be erased from my life," Anderson, 35, told ABC11 on Monday evening.

The death of his best friend James Alston is one of those moments in life he can't escape. Alston, who was also working to change his life, was a victim of gun violence in 2015.

"We still had a foot in the street, one foot in the street, and one foot out of the street. We're in the community talking to the kids and things like that. But then on the other side, we were both, you know, still selling drugs," Anderson said.

The pair tried to make a change for the better, but tragedy hit. Anderson went back to prison, and his friend was murdered. The death hit him hard.

"Like that's something I'll never get over. You know, I accept that, but I guess I never forget," Anderson said.

His past still haunts him, especially the pain he caused others, like the charges that sent him to prison.

"I've been on the other side of the gun before. I can't lie," Anderson said. "I've been in a prison for things like that. And honestly, you don't think about anything in the heat of the moment. Nine times out of 10 if people actually stopped and thought about and the future consequences of what happened to the families and things like that, they wouldn't do it."

Johnathan Brunson is a licensed social worker who is helping communities and families heal from traumatic experiences that affect communities of ethnic minorities the most.

"The gun violence is serious. It's like we are numb to it. It happens, R.I.P. sign, R.I.P. shirt, hoodie, and then after that, you keep it in you. Then it doesn't come out except to get this person back, instead of can we make a peace effort and start healing," said Brunson.

Healing, he said, starts with conversations.

"We need healing circles, not judging, not bias or nothing, come in as you are. There's a lot of grief and pain going on," said Brunson. "And let's put people in this environment where they can feel safe. That's the key to trauma, too, right? We've got to feel safe."

As for Anderson, he is using his voice to try to help young people stay on the right path.