CommUNITY Event Presents Story of Forgiveness, 'Faith, Hope and Love'

Mary Johnson, founder of the support group From Death to Life (FDTL), and Oshea Israel, the man who killed Johnson’s only child, Laramuin Byrd, will speak on Friday, March 4. Their talk, “Faith, Hope and Love: A Story of Renewed Hope and Transformation,” will be held from 6 to 7:30 Room 150, Owens Science Hall.

In 1993, 16-year-old Marlon Green shot Johnson’s 20-year-old son in the head during a house party. In the course of Green’s sentencing, Johnson hugged the boy’s mother and told Green that she forgave him. Yet, for 12 years doubt lingered: Did she really? (Read more at

Johnson founded a support group, From Death to Life: Two Mothers Coming Together for Healing. Its title is based on a poem Johnson read that consisted of an imagined conversation between Mary, the mother of Jesus, and the mother of Judas Iscariot as they talked of the pain of losing their sons. “Hurt is hurt,” Johnson said, “it doesn’t matter what side you are on.” (View Johnson’s story of forgiveness here.)

Before Green was released from prison, he changed his name to Oshea Israel. Oshea is another name for Jacob, who in the Old Testament underwent a transformation after an epic wrestling match with an angel. “It means deliverance from the past,” he said, “a new beginning.”

On March 7, 2010, Israel was welcomed back to his Northside community in a celebration hosted by Johnson and the From Death to Life Advisory Board. About 30 friends and supporters gathered to share a meal and offer encouragement at the Visitation Sisters of Minneapolis St. Jane House, where Johnson and Israel’s FTDL ministry now takes place.

The March 4 talk on “Faith, Hope and Love” exemplifies the mission of the CommUNITY series, seeking to provide opportunities for the campus community to engage across differences. The audience will learn about ministering to the needs of victims, offenders and the community in a holistic manner.

FDTL is an organization dedicated to ending violence by helping victims and perpetrators find healing and reconciliation. It offers support groups that empower mothers and fathers to come to terms with the impact of homicide through emotional, spiritual, mental and physical healing.

For more information, contact Artika Tyner, interim director of diversity, (651) 962-4960.