An Unspeakable Hope

Brutality, Forgiveness, and Building a Better Future for My Son


A “powerful and insightful” (Cyntoia Brown-Long, author of Free Cyntoia) memoir in the vein of Just Mercy and The Sum of Us that upends our understanding about the future of policing in the United States and explores how we can begin healing from systemic injustice.

In 2012, nineteen-year-old Leon Ford was shot five times by a Pittsburgh police officer during a racially charged traffic stop stemming from a case of mistaken identity. When he woke up in the hospital, he was faced with two life-changing realities: he was a new father, and he was paralyzed from the waist down. Leon found the only way to move forward was to let go of his bitterness and learn to practice forgiveness.

Now, in this memoir and manifesto, Leon illustrates how this harrowing experience has inspired a deep reckoning with the issues his community is facing, not only with police brutality, but also an epidemic of street violence, toxic masculinity and its impact on Black fatherhood, and the lack of disability rights and mental health access in disenfranchised communities. In the wake of countless similar shootings across the country, Leon details how he turned towards social activism, dedicating himself to bridging the gap between the police and the communities they are supposed to serve.

With a voice filled with “healing, triumph, and resilience” (Shaka Senghor, bestselling author of Writing My Wrongs), Ford offers fresh, counterintuitive ways we can effect social change. Leon shows us how, together, we can move away from retribution and towards transformative justice in order to end police brutality and heal as a country. As he once said, “Lead with love. Start compassionate conversations even with individuals and systems that have caused you pain. I know from experience that you can make your pain purposeful.”

About the author(s)

Leon Ford, a native of Pittsburgh, is an award-winning entrepreneur, author, international speaker, community organizer, and activist who has devoted his life to the betterment of his community and ending police brutality. He is the cofounder of The Hear Foundation, an organization that brings community leaders, Pittsburgh police, and residents together to build a safe, thriving community for all.  He executive produced the Cannes Film Festival award-winning documentary Leon in 2019 and is a member of The Aspen Institute’s Inaugural Civil Society Fellowship. Follow him on Twitter @LeonFordSpeaks.