Leon Ford Survivor of Police Brutality, Activist, Writer, Entrepreneur, Change-maker

About the Author

The Pittsburgh native is a celebrated author, social entrepreneur, impact investor, international speaker, and changemaker dedicated to driving positive change in his community and beyond. As a respected activist and mental health ambassador, Ford passionately addresses disparities by focusing on holistic wellness. His inspiring approach emphasizes the importance of resilience, transforming personal challenges into purpose, and creating a lasting societal impact.

In 2012, Ford was tragically shot five times by a police officer during a racially charged traffic stop, leaving him physically paralyzed. Nevertheless, he has continued to positively impact his community, working with police officers on cultural competency and legislators on drafting policies to modify the use of force laws.

In 2022, Leon joined forces with former Pittsburgh Bureau of Police Chief Scott Schubert to co-found The Hear Foundation. This trailblazing nonprofit seeks to bridge the gap between residents, community leaders, and law enforcement. cultivating a safe and thriving community for all. In recognition of its innovative approach, the foundation received the prestigious McNulty Catalyst Prize in 2023- Ford has also joined 150+ other leaders as a Founding Partner of Starts With Us – a movement to end the culture wars by fostering curiosity, compassion, and courage as daily habits.

Ford’s accomplishments include executive producing the Cannes Film Festival award-winning documentary Leon (2019) and Breaking Bread: A Conversation on Race in America (2021), which won a Shorty Award. As a member of The Aspen lnstitute’s Inaugural Civil Society Fellowship, Ford is devoted to nurturing the next generation of leaders and activists. He serves as an entrepreneur in residence for Bronze Investments, is co-founder of the Leon Ford Legacy Fund, and holds board positions with multiple organizations.

In addition to his activism, Ford has authored valuable resources for overcoming adversity and promoting well-being, such as the forthcoming memoir, An Unspeakable Hope (May 2023), Untold: Testimony and Guide to Overcoming Adversity (2017), and The Leon Self-Care Handbook: From Surviving to Thriving, offering practical tools for healing and personal growth.

Ford’s accolades include President Obama’s Volunteer Service Award (2017), The Root 100  (2018), Pittsburgh’s 40 Under 40  (2019), Forbes 30 Under 30 (2022), and National Urban League Community Service Award (2023). As an influential figure in social justice and mental health, Ford inspires others through speaking engagements, mentorship, and fostering open dialogue. Through his work, he cultivates leaders, organizers, and social entrepreneurs, ensuring his vision for a compassionate and just society endures for future generations.

Suggested Topics

  • An Unspeakable Hope:

Ford will introduce his memoir, An Unspeakable Hope, sharing insights into its themes, stories, and the impact it aims to have on readers seeking inspiration, hope, and guidance.

  • Turning Pain into Purpose:

Ford will share personal reflections on transforming personal challenges into a powerful sense of purpose, and discuss how this approach can help others create a lasting impact on society.

  • Mental Health and Self-Care:

Ford will emphasize the importance of mental health, trauma recovery, and practical self-care techniques from The Leon Self-Care Handbook: From Surviving to Thriving.

  • Police Reform and Social Justice:

Ford will discuss experiences working with legislators and police officers on cultural competency and modifying use-of-force laws, and share insights on the importance of police reform for building safer, more equitable communities.

  • Community Collaboration:

Ford will discuss the work of The Hear Foundation in fostering collaboration between the public and police, and share success stories and best practices for building trust and creating safer communities.

  • Innovative Investments:

Ford will discuss the importance of social impact investing. As an entrepreneur in residence for Bronze Investments, he is engaged in social impact investing, focusing on companies that drive positive change in society. By leveraging his experience and activism, and community development expertise, Leon plays an integral role in identifying and supporting businesses that align with his commitment to creating a more equitable and just world.

  • Power of Storytelling:

Ford will highlight the role of art and media in driving social change, drawing from experiences with the award-winning documentary Leon and Breaking Bread: A Conversation on Race in America.

  • Cultivating Future Leaders:

Ford will discuss the importance of mentorship and community engagement in nurturing the next generation of community leaders, activists, and problem solvers, referencing involvement with The Aspen Institute’s Inaugural Civil Society Fellowship and various community organizations.

  • The Importance of Education and Activism:

Ford will discuss the role of education in shaping future generations and fostering social change, drawing from experiences as a board member of organizations like Let’s Reimagine and the Penn Hills Charter School Foundation.


Raves and Reviews

A timely book about resiliency that will find both advocates and detractors but is well worth hearing out.”

–Kirkus Reviews

The cops may have shot Leon Ford but they did not kill him. He lives on for his son, for his community, for all of us. His remarkable testimony proves that there is a way forward. Ford takes us on a path that leads from rage through rehabilitation, all the way to redemption.”

–Rob Kenner, New York Times bestselling author of The Marathon Don’t Stop and Founding Editor at Vibe

An Unspeakable Hope offers a remarkable demonstration of resilience, grace, and forgiveness. With powerful and insightful vulnerability, Leon provides a raw and riveting account of the arduous journey navigating life after injustice.”

–Cyntoia Brown-Long, NAACP-nominated author of Free Cyntoia: My Search for Redemption in the American Prison System

If there is one voice, one story, and one person the world needs to hear from, it’s Leon Ford. This powerful and moving memoir will take you on an emotional rollercoaster. As Leon tells his story of healing, triumph, and resilience, you will find yourself crying and rejoicing.”

–Shaka Senghor, bestselling author of Writing My Wrongs and Letters to the Sons of Society

Ford moves beyond reflexively hating cops, or uncritically advancing Black Lives Matter and modern social justice organizing to formulate a blueprint for the life he must find a way to live, and a new way forward for our country.”

–Deborah Douglas, author of U.S. Civil Rights Trail: A Traveler’s Guide to the People, Places and Events That Made the Movement

With searing vulnerability and insight, Leon Ford reveals his compelling life story, reminding us that the gift of hope often comes in not-so-pretty wrappings of pain, loss, and forgiveness. An Unspeakable Hope illuminates Leon’s inspiring journey as a Black man, a father, and a community leader, transforming his story of tragedy and injustice into a triumphant invitation for America’s racial healing and repair. Read it and you’ll certainly reap from Leon’s unflinching love and light.”

–Shawn Dove, author of I Too Am America: On Loving and Leading Black Men & Boys

In the Media


Books by Leon Ford

Unspeakable Hope

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