As part of Russell Simon’s “Peace as a Lifestyle” LIFE Camp, Peace Week is centered around Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s birthday week with a similar mission to carry out King’s legacy of non-violence.
Last week, Peace Week partners met at the steps of City Hall heralding Peace Week and sending out their message.
While the shootings at Sandy Hook has brought gun violence to mass media coverage, the partners of LIFE Camp have been talking about gun violence and it’s affect the community for years.
Founder of LIFE Camp, Inc. Erica Ford is one of the committed advocates looking for alternatives. She talked about a two prong solution, looking at both availability and supply of weapons and also providing alternatives to help young people make better choices. She said, “Violence has plagued us for too long,” encouraging people to look at it as a public health crisis. “There is trauma witnessing violence,” that must be dealt with, Ford said.
Community leaders and organization directors joined Russell Simmons who said, “This is a sickness that we can cure.” In particular, it was mentioned that 56 kids in one weekend were shot in Chicago.
A.T. Mitchell of Man Up, Inc., was one among the many who spoke about how necessary it is to fund youth programs. Man Up is an organization in East New York with an after-school program, summer day camp, employment readiness, mentoring, sports, recreational and advocacy programs.
“It takes economic and human resources to do this work, ” was repeated by many of the speakers, contrasting with the high cost of “how much we pay for prisons.”
Queens Councilman Leroy Comrie said, “There is no reason we can’t have money to go to programming. These programs can help change attitudes and mindsets and reduce stress.”
Charles Williams also spoke. In a former life, Williams was a notorious criminal who spent 15 years in prison. Now, he works with South Jamaica Cure Violence to help prevent youth–primarily ages 16-24– from choosing that kind of life.
“We actually work with all ages, “ he said of the program that includes, job training, readiness, GED, mentoring and job placement. “We work with anger management,” he said, of participants who are “angry about their condition.”
The program has partnered with LaGuardia Community College and York College, particularly in the GED program. Participants in the program assisted in Sandy relief. So far, the program has worked with 24 high-risk individuals and has a target of 100 by the end of the year.
Erica Ford was among a group of youth and young adults with senior administration officials at the White House for a discussion focused on deterring mass shootings and reduction of gun violence in communities throughout the U.S.
On Jan. 16, President Obama urged Congress swift action to ban assault weapons and background checks for all gun buyers. He is asking Congress to renew the prohibition that expired in 2004 and pass a new federal gun trafficking law.
Peace Week’s activities continue throughout the month including activities at Connect, 127 W. 127th St. Friday, Feb. 1, all day, Understanding Domestic Violence.