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Participants from Neighbors in Action’s Save our Streets (S.O.S) program

Healing From Violence: A Look Back from 2019

In the wake of recent horrific acts of gun violence in our city and across the nation, our communities are reeling. In times of crisis we find strength in our neighbors—in local violence interrupters—who are leading the movement to grow public safety and communal healing.

Today we're taking a look back on a feature from our 2019 Impact Report which spotlights this work by some of our partners: 


Spotlight on Violence & Healing

Insights to Impact Report 2019 (July 2019)

The youth-led movement to end gun violence took the national spotlight in early 2018, following the mass shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida. For young people here in Brooklyn for whom the threat of gun violence is a daily reality, the movement has long been underway.

The Crown Heights–based Neighbors in Action’s Youth Organizing to Save Our Streets (YO S.O.S.) after-school program—supported with a $30,000 grant through our Invest Youth initiative—has focused on positive peer relationships, political education, and creating youth-led community anti-violence campaigns since 2011. It also organizes direct responses to moments of violence and focuses on rewriting negative narratives so that young people are able to envision a different future for their communities.

Photo of a group of youth activists from the Save our Streets program. There are a group of young teens of color standing together and meditating with their eyes closed. In the center is a young Black man wearing a durag, glasses, and a t-shirt that says "Stop shooting start living". His eyes are closed and his expression is peaceful. Overlaid on the image is a quote that says: "Whenever there is a mass shooting in schools, all of us have a complicated reaction. It’s kind of a double hurt: the hurt of the violence happening and then the hurt of how violence in Black communities is marginalized throughout the country.” — Amy Ellenbogen, Founder of the Save Our Streets (S.O.S), Program at Neighbors in Action

After Parkland, YO S.O.S. participants saw an opportunity to elevate the work they do to national stage. “We wanted our young people to go to D.C. and it was really hard to fundraise for the bus,” said Executive Director Amy Ellenbogen. “Other schools and groups may not have had direct experience with gun violence but were able to go much more easily to D.C.” With the support of Brooklyn Community Foundation, YO S.O.S. youth attended the March for Our Lives in March 2018. “Ultimately the experience was transformative for our young people. We put materials together for other organizations trying to incorporate perspectives by people of color,” said Ellenbogen.

CAMBA’s Brownsville In, Violence Out program—supported by a $25,000 Invest in Youth grant—builds on the “Cure Violence” approach to treating gun violence like a public health issue in a neighborhood with one of the highest crime rates in the city.

“Anytime there is a crisis moment, violence interrupters are called in," said CAMBA’s VP of Education and Youth Development Wesner Pierre. “We are there instantly and our staff is from the community. Gun violence is a cause and effect, it’s not sporadic. In order to prevent violence, you have to get in front of it through mediation and interruption. That’s the medicine for the infection. If we don’t respond as soon as possible, we can see it spread throughout the community.”

For Pierre, the Foundation’s grant provided the final piece of the “Cure Violence” puzzle, enabling the organization to launch a youth-led initiative. “This was a programmatic dream of ours come true. The piece that has been missing for us is giving youth a place to speak. They are able to act on behalf of themselves and speak to their trauma.”
 

H.O.L.L.A! — How Our Lives Link Altogether! works with youth of color citywide who face a complexity of challenges and trauma—from being victims of violence, to having been incarcerated, to being undocumented, to facing gender and sexual orientation discrimination—and focuses on healing as a first step in building community and collective power to take on injustice.

With a $20,000 Invest in Youth grant, H.O.L.L.A!’s “healing justice” approach is transforming the lives of young people who often feel isolated and misunderstood.
 
“We learned that part of the way we need to heal is with each other, first. What would that look like if we could create space where we could be our true, authentic selves with other young people who also struggle to tell their story? The root of organizing for us is relationship building," said Cory Greene, H.O.L.L.A! Co-founder and Organizer.

Jameela Syed

Communications Manager (She/Her/Hers)
"Whenever there is a mass shooting in schools, all of us have a complicated reaction. It’s kind of a double hurt: the hurt of the violence happening and then the hurt of how violence in Black communities is marginalized throughout the country.”
— Amy Ellenbogen, Founder of the Save Our Streets (S.O.S), Program at Neighbors in Action