Story at a glance
- The nonprofit Parents for Peace helps support people whose loved ones are linked to extremist groups.
- It also works with former members of hate and extremist groups to encourage intervention.
- Founded in 2015, Parents for Peace has 20 members in the U.S. and several abroad.
Support groups are popular outlets for comfort and advice amid times of difficulty and tribulations. From Alcoholics Anonymous to Survivors of Sexual Assault, there seems to be a place for everyone to get emotional and moral help.
One support group found a niche that wasn’t filled, however –– and so they filled it. Recently profiled by NPR, Parents for Peace is a nonprofit dedicated to talking about one of the most controversial, isolating topics: what to do when a loved one is an extremist.
Or even more difficult: when you were an extremist.
The group was co-founded by Melvin Bledsoe, the father of Carlos Bledsoe, the shooter responsible for the Little Rock military recruitment office shooting in 2009. He is currently serving a life sentence.
Carlos had converted to Islam, changing his name to Abdulhakim Mujahid Muhammad. The Bledsoes didn’t notice that their son was being introduced to an extremist sect of Islam.
Melvin maintained that his son was brainwashed to the point where “he was no longer himself,” he said to NPR. Laying awake at night, Melvin then decided he wanted to extend a hand to other families suffering the loss of a child to extremism. In 2015, he and his daughter Monica Holley founded Parents for Peace.
Holley elaborates that the ethos of the nonprofit is to provide support for people going through “periods of intense grief or shame” over their affiliation — voluntary or involuntary — to extremist groups. Parents for Peace now counts about 20 members nationally and a few internationally, coming from a diverse pageant of radical groups.
One of the newer members, Chris Buckley, is a defected member of the Ku Klux Klan. Known as a “former,” his wife staged an intervention and gave him an ultimatum: the Klan or his family. After several months, Buckley defected, describing leaving the hate behind like “kicking an addiction.”
Whatever the involvement with hate and terror groups is, Parents for Peace believes the trauma is easier to confront with support. The official mission of the organization is to provide advice and early intervention and raise awareness. With a helpline at 844-49-PEACE and additional resources on its website, Parents for Peace is committed to support with no judgement.
Working with tech companies to humanize the people involved with extremism, Holley believes the best aspect of Parents for Peace is "to know that you can talk to someone and not be judged by what your loved one did."