The following video references potential challenging content such as gun violence and is flagged for anyone who wishes to know about it in advance.
As a gun violence survivor, alum Nurjahan Boulden ’07 has focused her efforts on developing a gun violence prevention and recovery program for schools and organizations across the country.
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On the other side of fear, when we face and feel those fears and let go of them what we find on the other side is love and feeling safe again.
My name is Nurjahan Boulden ’07 and I graduated from Pitzer College in 2007.
In 2006 I was a junior going into my senior year of college. I ended up having to go to this family wedding and it was in Toronto, Canada. Sunday night was our last night in Toronto; I wanted to either go to karaoke or salsa dancing. Our only option ended up being this reggae club. We went to the rooftop where we sat and we were laughing and talking and we were going to leave and go get milkshakes afterward, just like a regular night.
And all of a sudden, I felt this big vibration in my leg and I fell on the ground, and immediately I knew I had been shot.
The thoughts that were going through my head were… I’m never going to dance again; I’m never going to run again. And the physical recovery was really hard. It was hard to be back on campus and being in a wheelchair my senior year, and my doctor had told me to take a semester off but of course, I wanted to pretend everything was fine.
One of the most impactful experiences I had was I went to this Pitzer event and Rhonda Foster was speaking at the event, and she started sharing about losing her son to gun violence. There was something inside me that told me that I needed to hear this and I waited until the end and went up to her and told her, “I know that my experience is nothing like yours but it was so powerful for me to see you standing up there sharing her story and just being so strong.” And I told her that I had been shot with an assault rifle in my leg and she looked at me and she said, “You’re a survivor, oh my goodness. We’re actually looking for a survivor to come speak at an event.”
That word “survivor” was really hard for me because to me, it sounded strong and I felt anything but that; I felt broken. I went to this 300-person event and shared my story out loud for the first time. I looked up after I was done speaking and the entire room of over 300 people were standing and clapping for me, and I’d felt this relief in a way I had never felt before. I realized I wanted to help other people do the same; I work with survivors of gun violence across the country.
The work that I do really focuses on supporting people in that process of recovery and create openings so that people can break through any fears that they face, no matter how devastating they are.
If I’m encouraging people to face those fears, I better be facing the fears that that are in front of me. I need to be able to be doing it and finding ways to do it with joy so I can teach that every day.
Because my goal is to break through all of those fears and make it fun while I’m doing it. I don’t want to face my fears and hold on; I want to feel my fears and let go.