Nicole Avant on Why She Forgave Her Mother’s Murderer

The former U.S. ambassador and daughter of the music industry’s ‘Black Godfather’ discusses grief, grace, and her radical response to a shocking crime.

Bari Weiss at The Free Press: On November 30, 2021, Nicole Avant got a call from her husband in the middle of the night. The unthinkable had happened. Her otherwise healthy 81-year-old mom, Jacqueline Avant, was in critical condition at the hospital.

Jacqueline had been having an ordinary evening at her home in Beverly Hills when a man broke into her home in an attempted robbery. He shot her, and then fled the scene.

She died later that night in the hospital.

It was the kind of unspeakable tragedy that would leave most people paralyzed, enraged, and probably seeking revenge. But Nicole chose a different path. She decided that she’s not a victim, and that she would forgive her mother’s murderer.

She shares this radical sentiment in her new book: Think You’ll be Happy: Moving Through Grief with Grit, Grace, and Gratitude.

Nicole wears many hats. She served as U.S. ambassador to the Bahamas under President Obama—the first black woman to hold the position. She’s been a force in political fundraising. She raised more than half a million for President Obama in one night in 2012, and she was part of a team that hauled in $21 million for him in 2008. She’s also a movie producer, which isn’t exactly surprising considering she was born into black Hollywood royalty—her father was Clarence Avant, the legendary music mogul who managed artists like Bill Withers, Sarah Vaughan, and Freddie Hubbard.

Today, she finds herself again a part of Hollywood royalty, just of more recent vintage. Her husband is Netflix co-CEO Ted Sarandos.

She sat down with me on the latest episode of Honestly to discuss how she found the power to forgive, whether her mother’s murder affected her politically, and so much more.

On what forgiveness means to her:

BW:The man who murdered your mother is 30 years old. He had an extensive criminal record. He had spent five years in prison for robbery and then was sentenced to another four years, also for robbery, and had been released on parole in September of 2021, a few months before he walked into their house. He has gotten life in prison. So in a sense, you’ve gotten justice, but forgiveness is another story, right? 

And you write this in the book: “Forgiveness is a choice and a gift to yourself. I cannot carry the anger and the resentment and the fury because it’s just a dead weight on my heart, and I have to protect my soul.”

I think most people, when they hear that, will say, how is it possible that you could have that level of clarity? And for anyone listening who can’t forgive the person that wronged them, what advice do you have for that person?

NA:I think the advice I would give is: change your definition of forgiveness. Because forgiveness has nothing to do with condoning, excusing, trying to understand a behavior. I don’t give a shit about him at all. The forgiveness was more about setting yourself free. For me, forgiveness was taking my attention off of you. I have to untether myself from your energy. Forgiveness is really giving up the burden of anger and fear and resentment. It’s a daily thing. It wasn’t like, “Oh, I just forgive you. It happened.” No, it’s a practice…

More here.