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Murder victim's brother turns family darkness into light

The brother of one of the victims in the 2015 Chapel Hill shooting has made it his mission to turn his family's darkness and pain into light.

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Stephanie Brown / WRAL-UNC Fellow 2017
RALEIGH, N.C. — The brother of one of the victims in the 2015 Chapel Hill shooting has made it his mission to turn his family’s darkness and pain into light.
Farris Barakat, with the help of the Raleigh Muslim community, officially launched The Lighthouse Project this past February.

The Lighthouse is occupies an old house that Deah Barakat owned at the time of his murder. He had been renting out the property to help with dental school costs.

Deah Barakat's home

For the past two years, Farris has been working to renovate the home, turning it into an incubator space for faith-based nonprofits serving youth in the community. The idea came from a vision his brother once shared via Tweet before he died.

“So my mom sent me a screenshot of that while we were working on the house,” said Barakat. “And she suggested that we make that dream come true.”

Barakat credits his Muslim faith for the fact that his family was able to respond to tragedy with positivity.

“Because at the end of the day, if I did get angry and hateful, Craig Hicks has another victim. And I’m not letting that happen,” he says.

Tuesday, in a pretrial hearing, Hicks, charged with gunning down the trio, faced the victims’ family in court for the first time in two years. There’s no official word on when the trial will begin.
The images of Deah Shaddy Barakat, Yusor Mohammad Abu-Salha and Razan Mohammad Abu-Salha, three Muslim students killed in Chapel Hill on Feb. 10, 2015, are superimposed on an American flag inside The Light House, a community center in Raleigh that works to preserve their legacies. (Photo by Sarah Krueger)

But in the midst of all the darkness his family has faced, Barakat wants to remain a light for Muslim youth in Raleigh.

The space serves as more than just a physical space for these programs. Barakat uses his background as an entrepreneur to offer fiscal mentorship and sponsorship to help small ideas grow to full nonprofits.

Right now, the Lighthouse is home to three, soon to be four nonprofits.



Jay Jennings, Photographer

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