Two high school boys brawled in the middle of a residential street as their friends watched, some laughing, others encouraging and one recording.
But ultimately what that video captured was not another ugly street fight. Instead, it showed a remarkable display of humanity from a stranger who intervened with something much more powerful than fists.
Ibn Ali Miller, a 26-year-old Muslim man from Atlantic City, had run an errand for his mother when he happened upon the group of teens gathered on the neighborhood street corner. In the video that has now been seen by millions, and has been praised by the likes of LeBron James and Snoop Dogg, Miller puts himself between the fighting boys and offers them some tough love.
“You’re almost men, you’re not kids no more,” Miller tells them. “Start acting like it, yo. You’re going to get nowhere like this, yo.”
He condemned their friends for laughing and egging them on. He points to one teen off camera and says, “I know where you’re from, humble beginnings. Your mom and dad worked hard to get where they’re at, yo.” He turns to another. “Your dad’s doing life, you think it’s a game out here? It’s no game out here. It’s real out here, little bro.”
Then Miller tells the two fighting boys he won’t leave until they shake hands. After some coaxing from Miller, they do.
The video, which was posted to Facebook by one of the boys, has been heralded across the Internet for Miller’s courage — putting yourself in the middle of a fight could go dangerously wrong — but also for his instinct to be a role model for the teens. (Watch the full exchange below.)
“A dozen positive lessons could be taught from that four-minute video alone,” Atlantic City Mayor Don Guardian said in a statement. “He fearlessly spoke so much truth to those young kids. We need more adults in the world that are willing to step in to help pull back our youth from the edge.”
The city council honored Miller, a married father of six, at their meeting on Wednesday evening.
“For him to intervene like that was tremendous and more importantly for the children to listen. That could have went the other way,” Council President Marty Small said in an interview Thursday morning.
“Just look at what is on social media, just look at that,” he added, referring to the negative images and words kids are exposed to every day. “When you see the outcome become the contrary to what you normally see, for this to turn in a positive light, it had a message behind it.”
In a YouTube video posted of the meeting, Miller was visibly emotional as he accepted the council’s recognition. He thanked God, and then he choked up when he talked about his mom.
“When I was young I grew up in the projects and I would get a punishment. She would make me read books, and I’d get asked about a short story or a poem,” he said. “I’m crying because this whole situation deeply saddens me. The fact that it’s unbelievable — this should be very believable, this should be a norm, this should be regular.”
The two teenage boys who were fighting, allegedly over a girl, according to Small, were also honored by the council. Small, who has since spent time with them and took them to dinner after the meeting, said they are still reeling from all the positive attention, particularly from their heroes like LeBron James, who wrote on Twitter:
It’s a powerful reinforcement for good behavior, the kind of affirmation that could encourage more positive actions.
The three lives are intertwined now in ways they couldn’t have imagined when they met by chance on the street corner Monday. Small said Miller had just driven the boys to Philadelphia for a news appearance.
In his speech, Miller said the attention should be on the boys and their families.
“Not only did they decide not to fight, but they decided to shake hands and display unity,” he said. “Not only do I want to thank my mom but I want to thank the people who raised these men as well, because they raised them to be young men of reason, which seems to be a very, very rare trait in today’s youth.”
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