At the Connect Men’s Roundtable that took place last night (and which I’ve highlighted previously both here and here), two of the participants were from a program called Cure Violence. I didn’t realize it at the time, but it’s the same organization that previously was known as CeaseFire, the Chicago-based violence prevention organization that was the subject of the acclaimed documentary, The Interrupters, by Steve James (Director of Hoop Dreams), and Alex Kotlowitz (author of There Are No Children Here).
The group is tackling a huge problem – gun violence – and attempting to do so in an innovative way by treating violence as a disease and attempting to address it as such. That is to say, in their own words: “Violent behavior follows the model of contagious and infectious diseases, and the same approach to prevention guides strategies for reducing violence, with more predictable results.”
The group trains and empowers “interrupters,” frequently former gang members or violent offenders who have chosen a new peaceful path, to, in the most simplest of terms, talk individuals out of engaging in violence (“potentially lethal disputes”), resolve conflicts, provide mentorship, listen to needs and provide guidance for how those needs can be met…
And the genius is that all of this is done while understanding that for many communities, violence has almost become accepted and expected solution to conflict and that it requires the empowerment of community members and leaders to be supported in changing these social norms.
(Click here for more info on Cure Violence’s approach)
Results have supposedly been “promising,” and Cure Violence has been lauded as reducing violence in targeted neighborhoods. However, “promising” still has resulted in way too many deaths. That’s not an indictment of organizations like Cure Violence though. In fact, I was tremendously impressed and had such respect for the two men at the Roundtable as they described the work and outreach that they have started in South Jamaica, Queens. And to hear that no one has been shot in their targeted, high-risk area (compared to 6 fatal shootings in January 2012 alone) provides hope to build upon.
Have a Fantastic Friday everyone!