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An Unspeakable Hope

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



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About The Book

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

Photograph by Deneka Peniston

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.

Product Details

  • Publisher: Atria Books (May 9, 2023)
  • Length: 320 pages
  • ISBN13: 9781982187279
  • Lexile ® 840L The Lexile reading levels have been certified by the Lexile developer, MetaMetrics®

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Raves and Reviews

“A timely book about resiliency that will find both advocates and detractors but is well worth hearing out.”

Kirkus Reviews

“The cops may have shot Leon Ford but they did not kill him. He lives on for his son, for his community, for all of us. His remarkable testimony proves that there is a way forward. Ford takes us on a path that leads from rage through rehabilitation, all the way to redemption.”

Rob Kenner, New York Times bestselling author of The Marathon Don’t Stop and Founding Editor at Vibe

An Unspeakable Hope offers a remarkable demonstration of resilience, grace, and forgiveness. With powerful and insightful vulnerability, Leon provides a raw and riveting account of the arduous journey navigating life after injustice.”

Cyntoia Brown-Long, NAACP-nominated author of Free Cyntoia: My Search for Redemption in the American Prison System

“If there is one voice, one story, and one person the world needs to hear from, it’s Leon Ford. This powerful and moving memoir will take you on an emotional rollercoaster. As Leon tells his story of healing, triumph, and resilience, you will find yourself crying and rejoicing.”

Shaka Senghor, bestselling author of Writing My Wrongs and Letters to the Sons of Society 

“Ford moves beyond reflexively hating cops, or uncritically advancing Black Lives Matter and modern social justice organizing to formulate a blueprint for the life he must find a way to live, and a new way forward for our country.”

Deborah Douglas, author of U.S. Civil Rights Trail: A Traveler's Guide to the People, Places and Events That Made the Movement

“With searing vulnerability and insight, Leon Ford reveals his compelling life story, reminding us that the gift of hope often comes in not-so-pretty wrappings of pain, loss, and forgiveness. An Unspeakable Hope illuminates Leon’s inspiring journey as a Black man, a father, and a community leader, transforming his story of tragedy and injustice into a triumphant invitation for America’s racial healing and repair. Read it and you’ll certainly reap from Leon’s unflinching love and light.”

Shawn Dove, author of I Too Am America: On Loving and Leading Black Men & Boys

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