WDAY: The News Leader

Published April 14, 2010, 09:13 AM

Former Neo-Nazi teaches tolerance as part of MSUM's diversity week

Moorhead, Minn. (WDAY TV) - A man who spent 15 years of his life as a neo-Nazi has turned away from hate and is now teaching tolerance. He brought his sometimes shocking message to MSUM tonight as part of the university's diversity week.

TJ Leyden began his talk with a warning to the audience. He was about to use harsh words and offend everyone in the room. Leyden gave a crash course in his past life as a man who promoted hate, bigotry and racism.

He was taught to fight at a young age and discovered a life with the skinheads was where he belonged. He talked of severely beating people, many times for no reason at all. He was jailed so often, the southern California jailers knew him by name.

But those years of hate and violence came to an end after TJ got married and started to have kids of his own. Now he and his wife run an organization combating hate, bigotry, intolerance and discrimination thru education.

“I want the kids to realize and do 2 things. One, I want them to become active anti-racist, and the second thing is I want them to become a mentor. If there's a kid out here in Moorhead or any of the surrounding areas, who's lost, he's looking for someone to help him.”

You can read more about TJ's story in the book Skinhead Confessions and he'll soon appear on Dr. Phil. As for MSUM's diversity week, the mood gets much lighter tomorrow night with salsa lessons and music.