Life did not start well for Sammy Rangel.
“When I was 45, I found out that I was the second child my mom had tried to kill,” he said.
Rangel is the executive director and co-founder of Life After Hate, a nonprofit organization formed in 2011 by former members of far-right extremist groups in the United States.
On Tuesday, he will receive the fifth annual “Hero of the Year” award from HateBrakers, a locally-based nonprofit organization.
“HateBrakers exists to try to interrupt that predictable cycle of hate,” said Susan Balk, the founder of the organization, who along with Rangel joined St. Louis on the Air host Don Marsh on Monday.
“Nobody breathes more life into what our mission is then Sammy,” she said.
It’s remarkable Rangel is still breathing. As a child, his mom starved him and exposed him to freezing temperatures.
“By the time I was 3 I was being sexually abused by my mom’s brother,” Rangel said, noting that his mom didn’t protect him and was, in fact, abusive herself.
He tried to kill himself when he was 8 years old.
Rangel’s tough upbringing led him to a life of being involved in gangs and to prison by the time he was 17, for stealing a car in Chicago. He described himself as one of the worst of the worst prisoners to be housed at a triple maximum security prison in Wisconsin.
“I think it’s really relevant to what we’re seeing today with all the violent extremists on U.S. soil,” Rangel said, mentioning recent violence such as the clash in August between white supremacists and counter-protesters in Charlottesville, Virginia.
Life After Hate focuses on developing relationships with far-right extremists who may want to leave a life of hate. The experiences of those involved with the organization uniquely allows them to relate to people and what drew them to hate.
To hear more from Rangel and Balk including about how Rangel turned his life around because of what a prison psychologist told him, listen to the audio below.
What: An Evening with Sammy Rangel, 5th Annual HateBrakers Hero of the Year
When: 7 p.m., Tuesday, Oct.17
Where: Missouri History Museum, 5700 Lindell, St. Louis
St. Louis on the Air brings you the stories of St. Louis and the people who live, work and create in our region. St. Louis on the Air host Don Marsh and producers Mary Edwards, Alex Heuer and Kelly Moffitt give you the information you need to make informed decisions and stay in touch with our diverse and vibrant St. Louis region.