Former white supremacist speaks in Wheeling

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WHEELING, W.Va. (WTRF)- An unorthodox guest speaker took the stand Wednesday at the YWCA in Wheeling.

The purpose? To show how a deplorable life trajectory can be turned around.

7News attended an open discussion with former violent white supremacist, Shannon Foley Martinez. Sometimes, the most inspiring messages come from darkness.

Before spending two decades of creating platforms to rid communities of violence and hatred, Shannon Foley Martinez spent 5 years in a violent white supremacy movement. A feeling of not belonging with her family and community, in addition to sexual abuse as a teenager with no support system to turn to- Martinez found purpose in anger.

The anti-racism advocate told 7News “a few months after that I met some neo-Nazi white power skinheads and I think the rage that I felt and the hatred and self-loathing that I felt resonated with the rage they put out into the world. I felt like I could belong. There was an allure you know almost in an addictive way and I felt so powerless but I could make people afraid of me. I could be intimidating and that had a very powerful draw in my life when I was in such a dark place.”

Not only has she become an educator, Martinez helps individuals leave violent movements permanently and piece their lives together afterward. At 23, Martinez had her first child and didn’t want him to ever look to hate or violence. Luckily, a single mom who she met helped her turn it all around, Martinez added “she chose to see a hurting and struggling young woman and let me come live in her home, it was the first time I ever felt unconditionally accepted for exactly who I was. I’ve been out 25 years now and my life is predicated on apology and making ongoing meaningful amends and trying to dismantle racism and anti-Semitism.”

Classrooms Without Borders brought Shannon to the YWCA to promote ideals of social justice, diversity, and anti-racism.

Jamie Campbell, Program Coordinator of Classrooms Without Borders in Wheeling, told 7News that “Wheeling, being such a small community, and a very friendly community, I think sometimes we’re not aware of the dangers that exist in the world.”

Copyright 2019 Nexstar Broadcasting, Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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