For Morgan State University professor Darryl Green, the healing journey was rocky and winding.

Thirty-five years ago, his younger brother, Ruben Cotton, was stabbed to death over a pair of tennis shoes at a bowling alley in Edgewood, Harford County. The tragedy unfolded just six days after Cotton’s 17th birthday.

“He was a gentle giant, a great young man who was going to do some amazing things. He had a beautiful heart,” Green said. “When this first happened, you couldn’t talk to me about forgiveness. You couldn’t talk to me about healing. You couldn’t talk to me about reconciliation. What I knew then was revenge and retaliation.”

For years, he was consumed by anger, until he realized the only way to take away that pain was to forgive his brother’s killer.

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“I was dying inside of unforgiveness, so when I chose forgiveness, I asked God to take the anger off of me and give me something else,” Green said. “I didn’t know what he was going to give me, but he gave me forgiveness. Once I forgave, I was free.”

Today, he has not only forgiven but also is friends with Kimyon Marshall, who served 25 years in prison for the murder.

Marshall was 14 years old when he killed Green’s brother.

WJZ recently sat down with both of them at Vinyl and Pages, a small business owned by Green’s friend on North Howard Street.

“At the time when the incident happened, I didn’t think. My emotions moved me to a place of rage,” Marshall told WJZ. “I began to understand what I’d done and how every human being is unique and can’t be replaced. They can’t be replaced. One of a kind.”

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He was determined “to do something where God would say, ‘You started off rough, but you finished well.’ ”

Marshall told WJZ, “I sat in that cell so long asking God to take this burden off me.”

That happened when the two met face to face at the historic courthouse in Bel Air where Green testified in favor of a reduction in Marshall’s life sentence.

Marshall said the Green family made their decision despite never having received the letter he wrote pleading for forgiveness. It was hidden away in a prosecutor’s file for decades.

He remembers being shackled in the courtroom.

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“All I could do was move my hands. I couldn’t move my wrists because they lock right here to my waist,” Marshall said.

“He had shackles around his waist and shackles around his ankles,” Green recalled. “And when he shook my hand, he was crying and I was crying. I said to him, ‘You’ve been known for taking a life. Now let’s go and save some lives together.’ ”

The two formed a powerful partnership that includes the nonprofit Deep Forgiveness and a book about those whom they have inspired around the country.

They often speak to people about what it takes to heal.

“We see brothers and sisters not speaking to each other, husbands and wives, mothers and daughters. I would say to you that you are one decision away from changing your life for the rest of your life. If I can forgive the young man who is responsible for taking my brother’s life, surely you can forgive your neighbor who parked halfway in your driveway,” Green said. “It feels good on the other side. I’m telling you. Once I forgave him, I was free from those bonds.”

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Green admits he did face some backlash for his decision to forgive Marshall.

“I will tell you that some folks think that I have dishonored my brother’s death, dishonored my brother’s life because I chose forgiveness. Some family members were on the other side of the fence,” Green said.

He thinks his brother would be proud. “He’s smiling down and saying job well done.”

Green admits there are ups and downs, but he is confident that although forgiveness is one of the hardest things to do, “it is so powerful.”

“It’s so much more beautiful on the other side,” Green said. “And we’ve got to love more! We’ve got to love more! Superman is not coming to save us. The elders in the village, we’ve got to teach the young folks that you have a choice. You don’t have to move toward revenge or retaliation. You have a choice.”

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Marshall said, “We’re in the healing business.”

WJZ is a media partner of The Baltimore Banner

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