Changing My Family Karma
Jaffar Amir Wilkerson, Atlanta
Living Buddhism: Amir, thank you for sharing your story with us. Can you tell us about your upbringing?
Jaffar Amir Wilkerson: Thank you! I’m honored to share my experience with you. When I was younger, my mother had many struggles in her marriage, raising nine children and keeping us financially stable. I guess the stress of it all affected her mental health to the point where she would have psychological breakdowns. One evening, when I was 11, the neighbors called the police and eventually child services came and separated my eight younger siblings and me into different foster homes.
The odds were completely against us getting out of foster care. In fact, the caseworker at the time seemed determined to keep us in the foster care system.
What happened next?
Amir: My first foster parents were abusive. I got a whooping every day for no reason. I was then transferred to a group home and then to a place where the foster parents were never home. I was constantly frustrated and worried about my survival. I had no contact with my brothers and sisters during this time.
I couldn’t handle all the stress, so I got in trouble a lot. At one point, I was being suspended at least once week, and in eighth grade, I was expelled from school. I would steal food or other small items from stores and was even caught by the police once. I also started hanging out with people who were bad influences on me.
When did your situation start to change?
Amir: About three years ago, I was allowed to stay at my grandmother’s house for one week. During that week, my grandmother made sure that I chanted Nam-myoho-renge-kyo for at least five minutes every day. I really wanted to change my life, and she said that I could achieve my dreams and change our family karma through chanting to the Gohonzon. After I returned to my foster home, I continued to chant every day. One week later, I found out that I had a new caseworker and that I could return to my family. I immediately moved in with my grandmother. I was so happy!
Congratulations! What other changes have you seen since you started chanting?
Amir: I’ve had so many benefits! Because I often had no money for food, I had to do things I regret now to survive. But the week I returned to the foster home after chanting for one week at my grandmother’s house, I found $100 on the street. I will never forget that. I felt so protected. Shortly after, I was able to live with my grandmother.
Before chanting, I was always stressed out and worried. Each day was so unpredictable. But now, I have confidence that nothing can stop me in advancing toward my dreams. Three years ago, at 14, I officially became a member of the SGI.
That’s great to hear! How has your mother been doing?
Amir: My mom is truly my best friend. She’s been through a lot, and I’m determined to always be there for her. About one year after I became an SGI member, my mother also started chanting consistently and became a member. I truly feel that she was attracted to the practice through my actual proof. While she still has ups and downs, my mom has changed so much since she started practicing. Whenever a problem comes up, she doesn’t panic like she used to, but handles issues with composure and confidence. I feel that she is finding her true self. I am so proud of her and love her so much!
Wonderful! We understand that you were very involved in the 50,000 Lions of Justice movement in 2018.
Amir: Yes. I was a proud member of the Brass Band, playing the snare drum. To be honest, being in Brass Band for the 50K Festival was the greatest memory of my life. It was just so fun going to rehearsals and spending time with the other young men in the group. We challenged ourselves to play the music, be in rhythm with one another and do our human revolution together. Even though we haven’t performed since, we still talk to each other and have developed deep bonds of friendship. I will never forget that experience. The Brass Band guys aren’t just friends, they’re my boys!
Wow, you were definitely a part of history! Are you active in your district as well?
Amir: I love my district. My favorite activity is the discussion meeting. Usually I’ll participate in some way like doing emcee, a study presentation or sharing an experience. My district is my second family. They all encourage me so much.
Because I’ve transformed my life so much, I tell as many people as I can about Nam-myoho-renge-kyo and the SGI. I’ve encouraged my brothers and sisters to chant, and now my younger brother wants to become a member.
Also, my uncle was so encouraged by my experience that he will receive the Gohonzon soon! I just enjoy sharing something that helps others see their greatness. This gives me the courage to share Buddhism. I also recently read guidance from SGI President Ikeda that helped me understand the spirit of shakubuku. He says:
Even if the person you are sharing Buddhism with doesn’t start practicing right away, the benefit of teaching another about the Mystic Law in the Latter Day is immeasurable. In addition, your actions based on your wish for that person’s happiness will forge a deep life-to-life bond between you.(December 2018 Living Buddhism, p. 48)
Some people may not want to hear about Buddhism, but as long as I plant the seed, they will hear it again someday. I can see how much my life is changing for the better by chanting and telling others about the power of Nam-myoho-renge-kyo.
That is so encouraging, Amir! What are your dreams for the future?
Amir: Just three years ago, I was struggling to survive on a daily basis, surrounding myself with destructive individuals. Now, I have a practice that helps me be victorious every day; I am reunited with my family; and I have so many members in the SGI who are supporting me and the best group of friends, who are always there for me and have my back, no matter what.
My interests are mainly in music and gaming. I often upload videos of my gaming strategies and techniques and get a lot of views. I’ve also been producing music and have even made some music videos. In fact, one of my songs has over 160,000 views on YouTube. I know that as long as I continue practicing Buddhism with the SGI, I will make all my dreams come true!