top of page

Former Gang Member Spreads Peace Within His Bronx Community

Updated: Jun 3, 2021

Heart to Heart’s Lessons in Nonviolent Communication Showed Him the Path from Armed Robbery to Redemption

By Christopher Biddle,

Heart to Heart Volunteer

May 2021

Heart to Heart News Merchantville, NJ

Photograph of a man standing against a colorful brick wall in a winter coat.
Once incarcerated for armed robbery, Khalil Williams is now a Peace Leader in the East Bronx, working to replace acts of violence with acts of peace among rival gangs. Photo Credit: NBC News

Khalil Williams is a modern-day prophet in a concrete wilderness. The sidewalks are his church.

Williams preaches the gospel of compassion, understanding and

conflict resolution to at-risk youth—and anyone else who will listen— in the East Bronx.

His early years took him down a violent path that led him to a

federal prison in South Jersey for armed robbery.

Today, he walks the same streets he did as a gang member, but now he seeks to deter others from taking the same path. Life behind bars, for all of its difficulties, gave Williams a rare opportunity. Thanks to the work of Heart to Heart, a nonprofit based in Merchantville, NJ, he learned about another way of life, one based on the nonviolent teachings of Mahatma Gandhi, the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King and Marshall Rosenberg. Heart to Heart Director Steve Tumolo and his team have counseled thousands of incarcerated men and women in state and federal prisons in Philadelphia and South Jersey over the past 12 years. They offer combined workshops in yoga, meditation and Nonviolent Communication. In its stripped-down essence, this is the ability to listen and speak from the heart without judgement—and to find peaceful solutions to conflicts. Prison life is stressful, but it