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Community To Honor Bishop Omar Jahwar After Death From COVID-19 Complications

Bishop Omar Jahwar wears a dark blue suit. He is an internationally renowned community leader dedicated to ending violence, strengthening communities and promoting strong families. He died from COVID-19 last week.
Antong Lucky
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Bishop Omar Jahwar is an internationally renowned community leader dedicated to ending violence, strengthening communities and promoting strong families. He died from COVID-19 complications last week.

Bishop Omar Jahwar believed in redemption. He wasn’t afraid to be vulnerable.

"So if you walk into a field of landmines is nothing better than someone saying, hold on to my arm and I will walk you through this field," Jahwar said when he spoke to KERA last September. He talkedabout founding his nonprofit Urban Specialists, a group of former gang members who intervene peacefully to stop conflict.

"We're not going to get blown up, I tell them, because I know how to escape this. I know how to move to that," he said."My scars can validate me that you don't have to be wounded because I've been wounded for you see."

Jahwar died last week at the age of 47 due to complications related to COVID-19.

He was paramount in launching the Dallas program focused on reducing gang violence in high-crime areas and worked to shape the Dallas community.

"I'd never imagine life without his presence, but I realized that he prepared not only me but our team for this moment," said Antong Lucky, a longtime friend of Jahwar and a member of Urban Specialists.

"He deposited into everybody he came in contact with," Lucky said. "He deposited something to them that this is brought together is the puzzle."

Lucky remembers meeting Jahwar on a sunny day in April of 2000, shortly after being released from prison. Lucky was looking desperately for a way to give back to his community and Jahwar presented him with a plan, which later became the mission of Urban Specialists.

 Bishop Omar Jahwar (left) helps his longtime friend Antong Lucky (right) adjust his tie. Lucky says Jahwar was like a father figure to him.
Courtesy of Antong Lucky
Bishop Omar Jahwar (right) helps his longtime friend Antong Lucky (left) adjust his tie. Lucky says Jahwar was like a father figure to him.

"It was like we knew that we were instantly so connected. We became brothers," said Lucky.

Jahwar was the first ever gang specialist hired by the state of Texas. He became Lucky's mentor, brother and father figure — the man who guided him past the "landmines." They shared the same sense of humor and demons.

They were both invited to Barack Obama's State of the Union address in 2016, where they were recognized for their work.

In 2017, Jahwar led the way by establishing a "peace treaty" between two rival gangs in Dallas to try to prevent another outbreak of violence.

Lucky says Jahwar left a mark on everybody he came in contact with. He hopes Urban Specialists can carry his legacy forward and that Jahwar is remembered for his knack in bringing out the good in people and commanding a room with his "obnoxious and loud" fashion sense.

"I now realizehow blessed I was and that he (Jahwar) prepared us for this. His work is complete, but the legacy of the work continues. He gave us the tools to continue," said Lucky.

Bishop Omar Jahwar will be remembered this weekend at a memorial service and celebration of life. The memorial service will be from 6 to 9 p.m. Friday at the Music Hall Of Southside at 1244 S Austin St, Dallas, TX 75215 and the celebration of life will be at 11 a.m. Saturday at Concord Church.

This post was updated at 3 p.m. on Friday with new location to the memorial service.

Got a tip? Alejandra Martinez is a Report For America corps member and writes about the impact of COVID-19 on underserved communities for KERA News. Email Alejandra at amartinez@kera.org. You can follow Alejandra on Twitter @alereports.

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