Brooklyn’s youth get deadly lessons about guns

He takes a stand against gun violence – by opening death’s door.

Brookdale Hospital launched a scare tactic program to teach Brooklyn’s at-risk youth some deadly lessons about guns. The brainchild of the program titled “It Starts Here,” is Khari Edwards, head of the hospital’s external affairs. After Edwards’ son almost had a run-in with some armed robbers, he was inspired by Temple University’s program called “Cradle to the Grave,” which shows students the effects of gun violence. Inspired by that and wanting to take it a notch further, he decided to create a similar program with a much grimmer reality.

“We really put them on the other side of the glass behind a real body,” said Edwards. “The value of life has been lost, so we’re trying regain that value of life a little.”

Edwards recalls starting the program after witnessing a large amount of cash being found on a victim of gun violence, saying the experience opened his eyes to the life young men are choosing.

“Young men, especially in our communities are not looking at tomorrow — they’re looking at right now,” said Edwards. “We want to show what gang violence does to the body and how hard it is to save a life.”

“It Starts Here,” relies on shock value to get across its point. Organizers get students from various schools across Brooklyn to an auditorium and show them actual videos of gun violence victims recording themselves, and suddenly getting shot. Edwards believes showing young kids victims getting shot doing things they could easily find themselves doing to the victims.

“We use shock value of bullets flying,” said Edwards. “Once you get the reality of it, and we tell them ‘we don’t want you here at all.’ This is permanent – we don’t want you on this side of the glass.”

Brookdale’s morgue receives about 225 gun victims a year — higher than any other hospital in Brooklyn according to Edwards. Many victims are teens and young adults, which Edwards believes is more effective than prison visits, because a dead body makes a bigger statement.

“You cannot get a conversation from a dead body,” said Edwards. “And that’s part of where I think the moral aptitude of these kids come out. You can’t mimic that feeling — you scare yourself into that feeling.”

Edwards hopes to get the attention of other hospitals and local community groups to show teens the consequences of gun violence.

“As long as I’m here I believe it’s going to go on,” said Edwards. “I don’t have any ownership, over it. I would like to see similar programs adopted by other hospitals.”

Reach reporter Alexandra Simon at (718) 260–8310 or e-mail her at asimo[email protected]local.com.

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