Her son was murdered in 1993. Today, she’s helping his killer rebuild his life.
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In February 1993, Mary Johnson was at work when she got the horrible news: Her son, Laramiun, had been murdered.

He'd been at a party when a fight broke out, and he wound up dead.

The killer? A 16-year-old boy named Oshea Israel.


At the trial, Mary felt only rage. "In court, I viewed Oshea as an animal," she told The Forgiveness Project.

"The root of bitterness ran deep, anger had set in, and I hated everyone. I remained like this for years, driving many people away."

But one day nearly 12 years later, she read something that made her see her anger in a new way.

It's been a long, difficult journey, but today Mary and Oshea have grown quite close. Photo by Brian Morgan, used with permission.

"Tell me the name of the son you love so,
That I may share with your grief and your woe."

So goes the poem "Two Mothers" about a conversation between the mothers of Jesus Christ and Judas Iscariot, sharing in their grief over losing their sons, all the while not knowing who the other was.

"It was such a healing poem all about the commonality of pain, and it showed me my destiny," Mary said.

She decided then that it wasn't enough to tell herself she had forgiven Oshea. It wasn't enough to try to block out the memories and never think of him again. No, to forgive Oshea — really forgive him — she'd have to embrace him with love. Help him get his life together.

It was the only way to get her own life back.

"Forgiveness isn't forgetting," she said in a phone interview. "People need to learn that forgiveness is for them, not the person that hurt them."

So she went to the prison to meet Oshea face to face for the first time since the trial.

It wasn't easy. And to this day, Mary says many people still don't understand her capacity to embrace her son's murderer. But what followed was an inspiring story of healing and forgiveness of the highest order.

Listen to Mary and Oshea talk about their unlikely bond in this inspiring video:

Photo courtesy of Capital One
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Growing up in Virginia, Dominique Meeks Gombe idolized her family physician — a young Black woman who inspired Meeks Gombe to pursue her passion for chemistry.

While Meeks Gombe began her career working in an environmental chemistry lab, after observing multiple inefficient processes in and around the lab, she took the initiative to teach herself to code in order to automate and streamline those issues.

That sparked her love for coding and imminent career shift. Now a software engineer at Capital One, Meeks Gombe wants to be a similar role model to her childhood mentor and encourage girls to pursue any career they desire.

"I'm so passionate about technology because that's where the world is going," Meeks Gombe said. "All of today's problems will be solved using technology. So it's very important for me, as a Black woman, to be at the proverbial table with my unique perspective."

Since 2019, she and her fellow Capital One associates have partnered with the Capital One Coders program and Girls For A Change to teach coding fundamentals to middle school girls.

The nonprofit's mission is aimed at empowering Black girls in Central Virginia. The organization focuses on designing, leading, funding and implementing social change projects that tackle issues girls face in their own neighborhoods.

Girls For a Change is one of many local nonprofits that receive support from the Capital One Impact Initiative, which strives to close gaps in equity while helping people gain better access to economic and social opportunities. The initial $200 million, five-year national commitment aims to support growth in underserved communities as well as advance socioeconomic mobility.

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This article originally appeared on 08.30.14


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