Tuesday, December 31, 2013

Stay Safe This New Year's Eve!

Holiday Party and Toy Giveaway

On December 21st, S.O.S. hosted a holiday party and toy giveaway for the families of program participants. The evening featured games, food, songs, and plenty of laughter and dancing, with the children receiving toys for the holidays at the end of the night. We would like to give special thanks to Catfish Restaurant and Basil Pizza for donating food, and to Toys for Tots, the Park Slope Civic Council and Park Slope Parents, Trucked Out, and Pastor Ken Bogan for their generous donations of toys.

Monday, December 30, 2013

Join Us for Community Conversations in the New Year

Community Rally on Christmas Eve

On the afternoon of Tuesday, December 24th, a group of Crown Heights residents gathered at the corner of Prospect Place and Albany Avenue in response to a shooting that occurred there the previous morning, which left a man wounded.

Residents came together to spread the message that violence in our community is never acceptable, and to try to bring about a new message of peace.

Monday, December 23, 2013

Shooting on Monday Morning

Around 2:40 am on Monday morning, December 23rd, there was a shooting in front of 1119 Prospect Place, between Albany and Kingston Aves. A 28-year old male was wounded and taken to Kings County Hospital where he was admitted.

S.O.S. Crown Heights is organizing a community rally tomorrow, December 24th, to express our collective opposition to this act of violence in our neighborhood during the season of peace. Even though - perhaps because - it is Christmas Eve, we hope you will join us for 30 minutes to stand against violence.

Friday, December 13, 2013

S.O.S. C.A.N. Remembrance Service: December 18th

Community Conversations, Session Three

Last night, Thursday, December 12th, 15 Crown Heights neighbors braved the freezing weather to gather at Launch Charter School on 1580 Dean Street for a third session of S.O.S. Community Conversations.

Participants looked at a variety of issues related to violence

 Participants looked at a number of sub-issues that affect and are affected by gun violence, which had been identified during previous conversations. They then selected violence-related issues to work on in small issue groups. The two groups decided to focus on housing and youth development and support. 

The housing group meets to discuss their issue
After choosing a facilitator and recorder, the issue groups worked together to choose an approach they would take to address their issue. Everyone returned to the conversation circle for a report back on what happened in the groups. Each group came away with ideas to address their issue and exchanged contact information to take next steps.

The youth development group reports back to the circle about their plans

At the close of the conversation, everyone was encouraged to send their reactions, opinions, criticisms, advice and suggestions about Community Conversations to us by email  at chcmcblog@gmail.com. Stay tuned for information about our next Community Conversation in the new year, and how to become involved in organizing for change.

Monday, December 9, 2013

Rally in Response to Shooting on St. Johns Place

On the night of Friday, December 6th, two men were shot on St. Johns Place between Utica and Schenectady Avenues. The following day, Saturday, December 7th, S.O.S. held a rally at the spot of the shooting to call attention to the act of violence that occurred there.

11 S.O.S. volunteers and 5 staff members came together to spread the message to passersby and the community: the shootings must end. Prior to Friday's shooting, there had been 55 days without a shooting in the S.O.S. catchment area. Many people on the street stopped and talked to the S.O.S. team about the need to end the violence.

Friday, December 6, 2013

Community Conversations Continue December 12th

Please join us for our next Community Conversation on Thursday, December 12th. We will break into groups to begin to build strategies to reduce neighborhood gun violence.

S.O.S. November Events

Fall Fish Fry: On Friday, November 22nd, S.O.S. held its annual Fish Fry in the Fall. Over 40 community members came out to the corner of Albany Ave. and St. Marks Ave. to enjoy fish sandwiches and good company.

Attorneys from the Legal Aid Society joined the S.O.S. team to answer questions and provide legal information to residents.

Barbershop Discussion: On Wednesday, November 27th, S.O.S. held a discussion event at Unique Unisex studio, a local barbershop. The event centered around the question: "What would your ideal community look like?" 5 participants were in attendance, and shared their thoughts about what could make their community better. Some ideas that came up were a more jobs and a more diverse community where people from different cultures could communicate better.

S.O.S. C.A.N. Rollerskating: On Saturday, November 30th, the S.O.S. Clergy Action Network (C.A.N.) hosted an outing for 20 young people at a rollerskating rink in Brooklyn. The event was hosted in response the event Power Filled Me, where an audience of adults listened to the concerns of young people. One of the issues that came up during Power Filled Me was the lack of community spaces where young people could have fun. The rollerskating event was a chance to bring together young people, some of whom had never skated before, for an activity with the community. The event was so successful that S.O.S. C.A.N. will be hosting another outing in the near future.

Youth panelists at Power Filled Me

Tuesday, December 3, 2013

Give to Stop Gun Violence and Save Lives!

"Before this program, I was a hothead, everything would get me upset and I had a really bad temper. Because where I come from, we always resort to violence first and since I’ve been here it really changed my life. I don’t get as mad as I used to; I just walk away from certain situations; I let stuff roll off my back. Honestly, it really changed my life. Without S.O.S., I really don’t know where I’d be right now, to be honest.”

Rezzeia Alexander, 16, Graduate of Youth Organizing to Save Our Streets (YO S.O.S.)

Dear Friend,

I am writing to ask you to donate to the Mediation Center to help us continue to make our neighborhood a safer place.

Your donation will go toward programs that prevent violence from spreading throughout our neighborhood and literally save lives.  We use an innovative approach that interrupts and prevents future violence, and has been evaluated and demonstrated to be effective. This year, an evaluation of our work by the Center for Court Innovation reflected what our participants have been reporting to us, our program really works to curb gun violence.  The research indicated that gun violence in Crown Heights was 20% lower than what it would have been without Save Our Streets (S.O.S.) One current participant recently shared, “S.O.S. isn’t just about saving the streets; it’s about saving ourselves.
  • Your donation will go toward teaching young leaders in the YO S.O.S. program, who have been surrounded by a climate of violence, how they can stand up against violence and help their friends make positive choices and avoid violent conflict.
  • Your donation will support our work with gunshot and stabbing victims at Kings County Hospital.  Our Hospital Responder, Kenneth Edwards, meets with victims in the midst of their crises and helps them consider how they can call off potential retaliations and be safe in the future. So far this year he has met with 50 people whose lives have been transformed due to violence and provided support and guidance.
  • Your donation will support our neighbor services, which assisted more than 800 people last year, helping them build resumes, find jobs, get health care screenings, and connect to other services and agencies throughout the city.
  • Your donation will support the mobilization efforts to involve the entire neighborhood in the movement to end gun violence. So far this includes 100 volunteers, 30 Houses of Worship that are active in the S.O.S. Clergy Action Network, eight barber shops that hold conversations about ending violence, 40 artists that contribute to our annual arts festival and 25 small business that count up the days between shootings and promote the public education materials designed to stop the shootings.
Our work has caught the attention of national press including CNN Radio, the New York TimesAl Jazeera America. Take two minutes to watch an award winning film that profiles an S.O.S. staff member and be inspired by how dedicated the S.O.S. team is to stopping gun violence and changing the culture.

We are dedicated to achieving lofty goals – saving the most vulnerable lives and changing cultural norms around violence. Our work is possible because of the support of people like you.  Join us in the movement to end violence.  Please make a contribution today!

Donations by check should be made out to the “Fund for the City of New York” and mailed to the Mediation Center at 256 Kingston Avenue, Brooklyn, New York 11213. Please put the Mediation Center in the subject line. Or, 
you can donate online here, and select Crown Heights Mediation Center in the drop down menu.

With appreciation and gratitude,

Amy Ellenbogen,
Project Director, Crown Heights Community Mediation Center

PS: Follow our progress on our 
blogsTwitterInstagram and Facebook, refer people to our programs, come volunteer, and join us at our events!

Monday, December 2, 2013

Film About S.O.S. Wins Ron Kovic Peace Award

Our Hospital Responder, Kenneth Edwards, was featured in a film by Moral Courage TV about his work with S.O.S. The film and its producer won the 2013 Ron Kovic Peace Prize at the My Hero International Film Festival. Congratulations to producer Adam Grannick and to Kenneth! Watch the video to learn more about the daily work of our S.O.S. staff. Read more about Kenneth and the role of a hospital responder here.

Monday, November 25, 2013

Community Conversations, Session Two

 Last night, S.O.S. held its second Community Conversation at the Launch Charter School in Crown Heights. Approximately 30 community members met in the school's cafeteria to begin discussing strategies to work against violence in our neighborhoods.Graphic Facilitator Kate Krontiris provided us with wonderful visual representations of the ideas produced by the group.

We began by answering a question: if you woke up tomorrow and there was no more gun violence in Crown Heights, how would you know? Some of the ideas that community members contributed including seeing fewer police officers on the street, more neighbors smiling and talking to one another, and more people jogging at night and spending time in parks.

We then addressed how we would get our community to look more like this vision. The group came up with some ideas for action that could be put into place immediately. For example, to address issues with violence in schools, some ideas were to mentor and tutor local students and to talk to young people in the neighborhood with respect.

Some of the attendees at our second Community Conversation
We will meet in the same location at 6:30 pm on Thursday,  December 12 to work in groups to create concrete action plans to begin to create the community we want to see. 

Friday, November 22, 2013

Meeting Our Team: Derick Scott's Story of How He Transformed

Derick Scott is an Outreach Worker with S.O.S. Crown Heights. This is his story of how he got involved in working with S.O.S. to end gun violence. This story was originally posted on the website, Interrupt Violence, which is affliated with the documentary "The Interrupters."

Derick at a rally in response to a neighborhood shooting

I was affected by violence early in life. When I was eight years old my uncle molested me. I started reacting in the schools, fighting, getting into gangs. 

When my step father left I would go out and do the things he’d have done, drinking and smoking reefer, at eleven and twelve years old. I got expelled from school and spent four years in a juvenile center, ended up running away. I was into gang fights, drinking, drugging. When I came back to New York, I was eighteen years old.

I was fast tempo, a ladies man, quick to the bullet. But that’s not who I was, it’s who I became because of the circumstances. It was just a protective shell.

What turned things around was doing time in prison. I remember, after I was sentenced to my long stint, I was in the mess hall, and as I looked around the reality hit me that I was going to be doing some time and I wasn’t going to be able to see my children. That was my break down…I had been hungry, and suddenly I wasn’t hungry anymore. I went back to my cell and cried. 

So I started focusing on trying to change myself. Eventually I became head of a religious organization in prison. I started educating individuals there that the enemy was the inner me. That’s a philosophy of mine: not to point fingers at anyone else. The power to change reality lies only within yourself. 

I came home in 2002, and things started looking up. I started seeing my children; they had been listening to rumors about what I once was, so I had to give them a deeper understanding of who I was and who I am today. It was a struggle, with my children and with the community. I got a job within the first two weeks out of prison, and I wanted to make a positive change, so I started volunteering.

I had volunteered in Crown Heights and lived there when I was much younger. So my Pastor told me about this program, about the Crown Heights Mediation Center and Save Our Streets. 

I met the directors, and they interviewed me, and at that moment I realized that I had a chance to undo a lot of wrong that I’ve done. And in a sense as I was helping others, I was more so helping myself. 

What continues to motivating me now is that I don’t want these young kids to do the same thing that I did. A lot of these kids don’t have the love. 

So I’m fighting for that eight year-old that was molested that no one can talk to. I’m fighting for that thirteen year-old that was sent away. I’m fighting for the sixteen year-old who was placed in a psychiatric center and ran away. 

These are individuals like myself, and I believe in their change because I changed. I want them to understand that change is a constant process. 

They say these individuals are nothing but they are someone. These individuals that are hopeless, a lot of them are not being heard, listened to, held, loved. But love does exist. We don’t always have to be out there shooting and killing one another. 

When interrupting a violent episode, I like to tell those involved that that’s not the way. I tell them, I know what you’re feeling right now. They’ll look at me and say, how do you know? 

And I say, I’ve been there. I explain to them what they’re feeling, and show them their life after they do what they do. Think of someone else before you pull the trigger, your siblings, your child, a wife or girlfriend, your mother, because once you pull that trigger, all those people are going to feel it, and you’ll be thinking of them afterwards, when you’re in that cold cell. 

I just lost my brother to gun violence. That showed more of the reality, that gun violence is everywhere. And for me to stop fighting is like a spit in my brother’s face, a spit into the young kids’ faces. 

Even if there was no S.O.S., I would still be doing something to ensure that there would be change.

Monday, November 18, 2013

Reminder: Next Community Conversation Thursday Night

Please join us for the next conversation in our series of meetings to discuss community violence. Our goal is to involve everybody in creating community-based strategies to reduce gun violence and violence of all kinds in Crown Heights. The second conversation will take place at the Launch Charter School at 1580 Dean St between Troy and Schenectady Aves. All are welcome! 

Thursday, November 14, 2013

2013-2014 Reentry Resource Guide

Our new and updated guide for formerly incarcerated people is out, including resources for housing, legal advocacy, mental health and counseling, employment, medical services, and other resources. An electronic version of the guide can be found on our website under "Resources" on the right side of the page. You can also access the guide by clicking on the image below. In addition, we will have hard copies at our office, and will distribute them around the community. Please share this guide widely!

Wednesday, November 13, 2013

"Praying With Our Feet" Book Launch Party

Last night, members of the S.O.S. Clergy Action Network (S.O.S. C.A.N.) came together with staff and community members to celebrate the launch of S.O.S. C.A.N.'s new book, Praying With Our Feet.

Attendees gather in front of Jason Das's original paintings, which are featured in the book.
The book, which profiles a few members of the S.O.S. C.A.N. network, provides resources for clergy and community members increase their involvement in the movement to stop gun violence. 

Reverend Kevin Jones, Clergy Liaison for S.O.S., spoke to over 40 attendees about the impact that clergy can have on their communities. Project Director Amy Ellenbogen, S.O.S. Program Manager Allen James, and The Center for Court Innovation's Citywide Anti-Violence Coordinator and former Deputy Director of the Mediation Center, Ife Charles, also spoke.

During his remarks, Reverend Jones quoted Pastor Gilford T. Monrose, who called the book "A national model for others to follow."

 Of her work with S.O.S., C.A.N. member Reverend Stephanie Bethea said, "It is work that I truly believe in. My life was changed by faith-based communities, and nothing gives me more pleasure than to see young people change their lives."

Bishop Willie Billips and Reverend Stephanie Bethea, both featured in Praying With Our Feet.

If you are interested in ordering copies of the book at bulk prices, call 718-773-6886, or stop by the Mediation Center at 256 Kingston Avenue.

Reverend Jones and Project Director Amy Ellenbogen with the S.O.S. C.A.N. members featured in the book.

Policing Alternatives Conference

S.O.S. Program Manager Allen James will be speaking this Friday afternoon at a conference about public safety and community-based policing. The conference will be held at John Jay College on November 15th. Email stop.frisk.info@gmail.com for more information.

Tuesday, November 12, 2013

Praying With Our Feet

The S.O.S. Clergy Action Network (S.O.S. C.A.N.) is pleased to present a new book, entitled "Praying with Our Feet: Faith-Based Activism to Stop Shootings and Killings in Crown Heights, Brooklyn, and Beyond." The book features interviews with a few members of S.O.S. C.A.N., and gives information about how clergy members can increase the presence of their congregations in the movement to stop gun violence.

Click on the image below to view a PDF of the book.

Wednesday, October 30, 2013

Listening to Youth at "Power Filled Me"

At Union United Methodist Church on this past Wednesday, October 23rd, over 50 community members gathered to listen to a panel of young people discuss their lives.

The audience consisted mainly of adults. The primary rule of the evening, enforced by Reverend Kevin Jones, Clergy Liaison of the S.O.S. Clergy Action Network, was that the adults couldn't speak during the event. The night was specifically about listening in order to learn from the young people on the panel.

Panelists respond to questions
The panel consisted of about 15 young men in their teens and early twenties. While the audience listened, some taking notes, the young men answered questions asked by the youth facilitators. The questions were divided into three sections: the first focused on the general experience of being a teenager today, the second on the young people's priorities, and the third on ways that adults can act as allies to help young people succeed.

 The young people spoke honestly about their experiences of growing up, and what they feel they need from the adults around them. They all had unique experiences, successes, and challenges to share. Some were attending high school and others were not. Others had experienced the arrest of themselves or friends, or parents' divorce. Some strategies that the young men used to stay positive were rapping, playing ball, and hanging out with friends.

Some panelists said that they enjoyed going to school, while others felt stressed out by it. One young man, who had graduated, expressed that felt he was "doing everything by myself. No one taught me what to do after high school. I don't know what I'm doing." Another offered his desire to see "adults... actually work with you - instead of telling you what you're supposed to do, actually walk through it with you." Some ways that panelists felt that adults could help them reach their goals included creating more community spaces, sharing their own mistakes from their youth, and asking their children questions.

Throughout the night, S.O.S. staff and audience members posted quotes and responses from the panel on Twitter. Some of them are below:

The night ended with Reverend Jones thanking the panel for speaking for almost two hours. He encouraged the adults in the room to attend a follow-up session the next Wednesday, where they would be able to discuss, but not judge, what they had heard over the course of the evening. The follow-up session will occur tonight, 6 pm, at the Union United Methodist Church on 121 New York Avenue.

Audience members at Power Filled Me