Hamid was raised in South Central Los Angeles at the height of the crack epidemic. He describes his earliest memories as “tragic,” “very violent,” and “scary.” His father, Mustafa, was addicted to drugs, and his mother also struggled to take care of him.
Eventually, Hamid went to live with his grandmother, Anna, who first taught him about Christ. Despite her spiritual influence, Hamid became a depressed, rebellious teenager who felt great resentment against his parents. He began to abuse marijuana and alcohol to numb his emotional pain.
Hamid dropped out of high school and started spending more time with his “delinquent” friends on the streets. Soon, he was part of a string of armed robberies in the summer and fall of 1998. At the sixth robbery, Hamid and an accomplice held up a cash-and-carry in downtown Los Angeles at gunpoint. Before it was over, Hamid had murdered one man and injured another.
“That was the climax of all my sin and rebelling and turning away from God,” says Hamid.
Even in prison, Hamid managed to obtain drugs. To celebrate his birthday in 2005, he was getting high in his cell. Suddenly, looking out his cell door, he realized that if he continued in his lifestyle, this view of identical, tomb-like cells would be his entire reality. Though alive, he would be spiritually dead. A chill came over him at the thought.
He called out to God, crying, “I can’t do this! Take this. Whatever it is, please.”
After that confession of helplessness, God began a work in Hamid’s life. Bit by bit, he was released from the chains that kept him in bondage.
As he neared his 30th birthday, Hamid went sent to Ironwood State Prison near Blythe, California. There he received a flyer about the TUMI program. He says that it called to him like a “beacon.” He applied to the program and was accepted. He describes the very first module, where he learned how to really read and apply the Bible, as “amazing.” For the first time, life seemed full of possibilities instead of dead ends.
Not long after, there was a major riot at Ironwood that left Hamid traumatized. In the aftermath, he was transferred to Chuckwalla Valley State Prison where, by God’s grace, he met other graduates of the TUMI program. They formed a deep friendship and started a church behind the walls that they called “Pillar of Fire.”
In 2018, after petitioning the governor’s office for many years, Hamid received 7 1/2 years off his sentence and went to see the parole board early. He was released on May 18, 2018—13 years after he turned his life back over to the Lord.
Life on the outside hasn’t always been easy, but Hamid has persevered and stayed close with his network of fellow TUMI graduates. Their fellowship motivates him to succeed.
“I want them to be proud of me,” he says, “and know that I’m doing the right thing. I want [former] Gov. [Jerry] Brown to look at me and say, ‘Hey, that guy, I didn’t make a mistake with him.’”