From Struggle to Purpose: Laquan Hill’s Journey of Redemption and Healing

In the gritty streets of Detroit, Laquan (Q) Hill faced a tumultuous upbringing, navigating through shifting family dynamics and grappling with anger from unresolved trauma. A local football program called “Police Athletic League (PAL)” and high school football offered a lifeline to Q, helping to instill discipline and a team spirit ethos. After high school, Q joined the Marines, which also sowed good seed into his life. However, these positive external influences couldn’t dispel Q’s inner turmoil. He made bad decisions out of desperation, not knowing what else to do in a terrible situation, which led to his incarceration.

While in the custody of the Michigan Department of Corrections, in the middle of Hell, Q found himself. Realizing he needed to make changes and heal himself, Q used different therapeutic modalities to ground himself and explore who he was, is, and wanted to become. He took classes and read, applying practices such as Cognitive Behavioral Therapy to change his cognitions and behaviors, and real internal healing was possible through a program called “Houses of Healing.” While participating in “Houses of Healing,” Q met a man named Adam Grant, and they formed a friendship which was both transformative and supportive. This relationship paved the way for Q’s role as Deputy Director at A Brighter Way. Now, Q is a father, son, and community healer who shares how his past shaped his purpose, and how he’s empowering others to overcome adversity.

Please tell us about what your work entails as the Deputy Director of A Brighter Way.

Laquan: As Deputy Director at A Brighter Way (ABW), I supervise a team of navigators who assist the formerly incarcerated, while also making sure that organizational operations for ABW run smoothly. I also build bridges in the community and help create a holistic space for people to heal.

What inspired you to become involved with Houses of Healing during your time in prison?

Laquan: For me it was not a profound internal awakening, it was a glimpse of an opportunity. I saw a sign on the wall for a program that seemed different than other programs offered in prison. I knew that I did not want to be locked in a cell, and in “Houses of Healing,” I saw an opportunity. That opportunity was not only to not be locked in the cage, but to see if there was something I could do and learn to improve the quality of my life both then and in the future.

How did your experience with Houses of Healing and dealing with past trauma shape your outlook on life?

Laquan: Houses of Healing changed my outlook on life by helping me get to the fundamentals of my own life and changing the driving narrative of my own course. The program gave me a sense of who I was, and who I wanted to be as a man. It helped me realize the impact of trauma from my ACEs (adverse childhood experiences) and how they had shaped my choices and reactions. The things we learned helped me to develop healthy coping and decision-making skills. It made me realize that we’re all pieces of who we encounter throughout our lives, and we carry those pieces with us everywhere we go, influencing what we think and do. The program allowed me to find my true identity. It challenged me to heal, to self-identify my triggers and my wounds, and to heal and work through them. That is where I learned to be a facilitator, where I learned how to lead and even design programs, and where I began to be the leader that I was born to be, all the while challenged and encouraged by Adam Grant. It helped me understand concepts and abstract thinking to better improve my own state of mind and my overall life quality.

Tell me about your relationship with Adam Grant and how it has influenced your personal and professional growth.

Laquan: Adam Grant was the facilitator for Houses of Healing when I first began the program. He eventually asked me to facilitate a class with him. Our relationship started off by being the most competitive friendship I had ever had — but it was the kind of competition that built me up instead of tearing me down. He saw something in me that I didn’t see in myself. He challenged me to be the best version of myself, and he became my best friend. With sarcasm and wit, Adam challenged me to push beyond what I had believed I was capable of. Because he was an active listener, he responded to me in a positive way and helped me to learn and then model those skills for others, which made me a better leader. We facilitated over 35-plus different classes, even creating classes and curricula together, creating things that would help others. Adam Grant is a real-world friend, not just a talker: he picked me up from prison, and it was through Adam that I became the Deputy Director of ABW. Adam and I worked well together inside, but we are even better in freedom. Outside prison walls we are using our experiences and learned wisdom to heal the wounds of others as we continue to heal ourselves.

In what ways has A Brighter Way helped you discover and embrace your purpose?

Laquan: A Brighter Way has helped me discover my purpose by recognizing and understanding traumas and using my own life experiences as a guide to help others. ABW welcomed me home with open arms, making my return to freedom so much easier and purposeful. This model works as a vehicle for real and lasting change and long-term success, and that is why ABW is so important to me. The organization is dedicated to empowering others to overcome adversity on their own terms, and learning to problem-solve is why this work is so important to me. ABW has been a godsend, helping to set the tone for my homecoming and life of freedom.

How do you balance being a father, a son, and a community healer while pursuing your own personal growth?

Laquan: There is no “balance,” all those roles are one in the same for me. How I live my life and the roles I operate within are all intertwined together, so there’s no “balance,” just me living my life with purpose and passion. It’s all a part of the main objective of creating and sustaining a legacy, while trying to figure it out through trial and error. We learn from each other’s experiences while sharing and teaching one another along the way. My life is lived not according to to filling up a résumé or an obituary with accomplishments for the sake of those accomplishments. It’s much deeper than that. On your tombstone you have birth and death dates, but between those dates there is a dash, and life is what happens during that dash — I am here for the dash. I utilize everything I have learned from my trials and tribulations. I have found my gifts and they have led to successes, and in this process, in this dash between my beginning and end on this earth, I have made the good people in my life proud of me and I have helped others. I now build up instead of destroy. I create a positive legacy for those I will ultimately leave behind, and I want to help others do the same — but I do this for myself first.

Contact Laquan Hill at mentoring@abrighterway.org

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