The community mourns the death of Brandie Sherrell Angel, age 27, who was shot and killed September 25, 2018 near Bartlett Arms Apartments.
Brandie, an aspiring hip-hop musician and mother of a one-year-old daughter, graduated from GO’s Training Team program for young adults from marginalized communities in 2013. She had recently re-engaged with GO as a participant in its Ready to Work program. Ready to Work offers job seekers assistance in removing any employment barriers they may be facing, while also providing soft skills training, and job placement assistance.
Brandie had made some missteps in her past, but she was committed to changing her life, doing the right thing, and earning a legitimate income. In July, GO helped Brandie secure a full-time job in the housekeeping department of the Biltmore Village Hampton Inn. Just recently, Brandie was in GO’s office to check in with her case managers about how she was doing. She had a big smile on her face and reported that she was doing well.
Brandie is the third GO student to have had their life cut far too short by gun violence in Asheville since July 2017. During that same time period two other GO students were shot and survived their injuries.
The prevalence of such violence in the lives of those that GO serves is not a strange coincidence—it is an epidemic. There is a growing plague of gun violence in our community, concentrated largely in Asheville’s low-income neighborhoods and public housing developments, that is both under-reported and largely unacknowledged by residents of the city at large; all too often these brutal crimes go unsolved.
New residents and tourists flock to Asheville each year, summoned by the lure of a safe, progressive, idyllic city nestled in the beautiful Blue Ridge Mountains. In reality, Asheville is a tale of two cities, a city of haves and have-nots. Poverty, drug and gang activity, violence, and a lack of economic opportunity are highly concentrated in specific neighborhoods, including in the Southside neighborhood, where GO operates its job training programs in the Arthur R. Edington Education and Career Center.
GO does not pretend to have all the answers on how to combat the gun violence raging in our city’s most marginalized communities. What they do have is a platform to begin a conversation about this complex issue. Their direct experience working with and for those living in poverty has shown that people often make the choice to turn to illegal activity when they feel like they have no other option, when too many doors have been closed to them.
Most of the people GO serves are facing multiple barriers to employment, including homelessness, re-entry barriers, lack of transportation, lack of childcare, lack of formal education, lack of work experience, lack of financial literacy, lack of access to healthcare, or a history of addiction. The prospect of facing any one of these barriers as a job seeker is daunting; facing three or four or five of them simultaneously while trying to participate in training or finding a job can be overwhelming. With that said, each day new people come to GO looking for a second chance, ready and willing to begin the incredibly hard work of getting their life back on track.
Brandie Angel was not just a statistic on the Asheville Police Department crime blotter. She was an aspiring young mother who was trying to make her life right, trying to do the right thing.
We hope that her death will not be in vain and that it serves as a wake-up call to all of us that Asheville is losing far too many of its citizens too soon to the senseless violence that lack of access to real economic opportunity breeds.