On Feb. 27, Elinor R. Tatum, publisher of the New York Amsterdam News, hosted a Zoom forum about ongoing efforts to reduce gun violence from a community perspective titled “From Sorrow to Solutions.”
Featuring a dynamic group of panelists, many of the speakers founded or currently lead community intervention programs that allow for civilians to offer support in situations rather than relying on law enforcement. Among the solutions highlighted were better access to mental healthcare, involving the faith community, reducing access to firearms and addressing incarceration issues.
“I don’t think solutions are difficult to find,” said Chief Equity Program Officer for the Hope and Heal Fund Refujio Rodriguez. “Some of the best solutions have come from Black and brown community organizations.”
Over the past 20 years, panelist Erica Ford, has been present for past efforts that have significantly improved safety in New York City. She noted that stop and frisk was a failure that caused instability in New York.
“Our city and our government doesn’t invest in people who need it the most,” she said about ongoing police spending amid budget cuts.
Hailing from Queens, Ford, founder of Life Camp, has been celebrated for her organization’s Peace Mobile, a 35-foot RV part of a mobile trauma unit that offers culturally responsive experiences and wellness practices for people and communities in need.
Jackie Rowe-Adams, founder of Harlem Mothers S.A.V.E., tragically lost two of her sons to gun violence. Following the death of her first son, she said “God brought me through, along with a lot of support from the community.” Following the passing of her second son, she said that she had a much better established support system to grieve. Her organization is now over 100 parents, and there is a chapter composed of fathers of gun violence as well. She strongly emphasized community takeback efforts — encouraging parents to assist their children personally.
Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D- New York), a longtime friend of Tatum’s, provided a pre-recorded message about his experiences with constituents who have experienced loss. He was introduced to the concept of community intervention, and referenced people such as Ford and Rowe-Adams, as folks who make a major difference in protecting their community.
“It is people like Erica and Jackie who give me strength.”, Senator Schumer said, before pledging additional federal support for community intervention programs. “Community intervention shows people that a better path is there, and the data shows that it works.”
Larry Lee, publisher of the Sacramento Observer, spoke about recent gun violence in his area, along with the unfortunate loss of Tyre Nichols, a Sacramento native.
“There has been a lot of pain in Sacramento, and we’ve celebrated his actual life,” he said. “He was a bright light to a lot of the people in Sacramento who enjoyed skateboarding and his friends before moving to Memphis.”
He later highlighted the strong link between domestic violence and gun violence — a correlation his outlet has not shied away from noting. “It’s critical for us as newsrooms to look at this.”
Kimberly Davis, co-founder of Protect Our Stolen Treasure, an organization that provides support for families who have experienced loss to gun violence, described her organization’s focus during.
“We help the families that have had losses. We come together in fellowship, do community engagement to maintain awareness, and offer a support system,” she said, recommending financial support, emotional support and counseling as some important pillars to making a difference.
The panel also discussed racial disparities in access to life insurance as another trying issue.
Both Davis and Rowe-Adams suggested holding elected officials accountable.
“When the polls open, if they won’t pay attention to these meetings and fund these programs, vote them out”, Rowe-Adams said. She said her next focus is reducing the pipeline that gets guns in the hands of youth in the first place.
Washington Informer Publisher Denise Rolark Barnes shared that while her children were growing up, there were some concerns about gun violence, but that gun violence has only gotten worse over time.
She brought up that gun violence in Black and brown communities is itself an unfortunate economy, and that Black publishers have a particular role in properly covering gun violence by humanizing both victims and perpetrators.
“This is something I talked about with my sons as they were growing up,” she said. “They’re in their mid-30s now, and I sadly think the problem has gotten worse.”