Thursday, March 21, 2013

New Fact Sheet on S.O.S. Evaluation

The Center for Court Innovation has published a new factsheet summarizing their extensive evaluation of the S.O.S. Crown Heights program. The factsheet concisely describes the evaluation’s findings that S.O.S. efforts successfully reduced shootings and killings in our target area, even while gun violence increased in comparable neighborhoods. We hope that you will share this report and spread the hope for a safer, less violent future.

Click here for the fact sheet. Click here for the full report

Wednesday, March 20, 2013

S.O.S. "Clergy of the Month"

Clergy of the Month: 
Reverend David Wright
Grace Tabernacle Church of God in Christ, 
1745 Pacific Street

Reverend David Wright is the son of Reverend Timothy Wright, a world-renowned gospel musician whose music was nominated for a Grammy award. Four years ago, at the age of 30, David was installed as pastor of Grace Tabernacle Church of God in Christ after his father passed away due to complications from a car-crash that killed his mother and nephew. Reverend Wright carries on his father’s legacy, having imbibed his love of gospel music and dedication to community engagement.

How did you get involved with S.O.S.?

Pastor Kevin Jones got me involved. When I heard about it, I said, I didn’t just want to be a pastor that stays in between my four walls. That’s the main problem with some of our churches today, we don’t see what’s going on outside.

My father once told me a story that his pastor, Bishop Washington, had told him. Bishop Washington was an awesome man of God, who preached around the world. Once, he went out of town and visited a church whose pastor was there for 5 years. The pastor wanted to drive him around the neighborhood, and the Bishop said, let’s walk. So they walked for blocks around his church, visited several stores. After about 2 hours the Bishop said, “I have to let you know, that I have to remove you from this church. We just walked around your neighborhood for 2 hours and nobody knew your name or your church. Nobody knew anything about you after 5 years.” That story resonated in my spirit. That’s part of why I got involved with S.O.S.

What motivates you to do anti-violence work?

I got involved with anti-violence because, as one of the young pastors in the neighborhood, I can relate to some of the issues that our young men have in the streets.

I grew up in East New York, Brooklyn. I went to Thomas Jefferson Middle School, and two teenage boys, brothers, got shot and killed at the high school that I was supposed to go to. The week before they got shot, they were in my house playing Nintendo. They were 17 years old. I was in junior high school at the time, and I cried that I didn’t want to go to the high school where my friends got killed.
I’ve seen a lot of my friends cut down, shot and killed. In the late 80s, when the crack epidemic took Brooklyn by storm, we lived in the projects and they would smoke crack in the basement of my building. You’d see it everywhere. When you’re in the midst of that violence all the time, you can’t avoid it.

My five brothers and I all grew up in East New York, and the only reason we didn’t get caught up into the crime and gangs like some of our friends is because we had a big faith-based family. We’re not perfect; my brother sold guns and drugs, and ultimately got incarcerated. When my father saw that he said, I can’t lose all my boys, so he moved us to Long Island. We got out just in time because between the ages of 13 and 17, that’s when you can really change kids’ minds.
The message I want to push with the youth now is: when you have God in your life it gives you hope. The streets can’t give you a hope for eternal life. You can get the quick easy money in the streets, but longevity and long life and hope comes through God.

How have you been able to reach the youth?

Basketball is a tool that I’m using to get these kids. I can’t go out with a bible, but when I come at them with a basketball, I can get in with them. It’s been working really well. We have a Grace Tabernacle basketball program for teens, 17 and under. I’m the assistant coach, and we have gym time on Saturday from 11am to 5pm, all year round.

Before we play the game we first say a little prayer, and check their grades, and do a little tutoring. We always ask what’s going on; most of the kids aren’t violent themselves, but somebody in their family or around them is, and it affects them. So we minister to these young men on how avoid going down that road to violence.

There are two twins we work with who are 15 years old. Their father is a drug dealer, and he’s trying to get them to sell drugs too. Their mom came to us and said, “I don’t want my kids to get stuck out there.” So every Saturday we go to their home in Far Rockaway and pick them up; we get to them before their father can get to them. Now they’re in the basketball program and come to church every Sunday. They come with jeans and t-shirts on but I tell them it’s fine, as long as they’re in the right place. And I thank God for them. They’re good ball players, but we’re just using basketball to get them off the streets.

To  continue reading this interview, click here.

Tuesday, March 19, 2013

"I felt like an island all by myself. . . until now."

Clergy Action Network Members at the Clergy Breakfast

Clergy Action Network Leader, Rev. Kevin Jones

On Saturday, March 9th, SOS CAN held their first Clergy Breakfast of 2013. Thirty-five faith-based leaders came out to learn about the Save Our Streets program and the Clergy Action Network, and how they increase the visibility and work of the faith-based community against gun violence. Led by Clergy Action Network coordinator Reverend Kenneth Jones, The Clergy Breakfast fostered a powerful space for faith leaders to join forces and build a community together. One Pastor applauded the Breakfast, stating "I felt like an island all by myself, until now." With the help of Youth Organizers and S.O.S. volunteers, SOS CAN provided a delicious breakfast and welcoming experience for new and familiar attendees. Reverend Jones led the clergy in a discussion of their hopes for moving from “reaction” to violence, to “action” that prevents violence. Reverend Tiffany Murray presented with various options for action through “committees,” and faith leaders were invited to join a committee during break-out sessions with Committee Chairs. Reverend Jones referred to the breakfast as a time for "for learning and sharing" and looks forward to future Clergy Breakfasts and SOS CAN events, including the Unity Fair & Festival in August.
S.O.S. Volunteers
S.O.S. Outreach Workers Craig Alexander and David Grant

Thursday, March 7, 2013

Community Rally at Utica and Eastern Parkway

The S.O.S. team of Outreach Workers and Violence Interrupters, as well as members of the Clergy Action Network joined the community last Thursday, February 28th to make a bold visual statement against gun violence. Coming together for a Community Rally at Utica and Eastern Parkway, participants stood as one, in the same location of the shooting that took place two days prior.  They sent a clear and powerful message: gun violence will not go unnoticed, and will not be tolerated. The rally fostered community concern about the issue of gun violence, and generated support for our anti-violence work. Outreach Worker Derick Scott felt S.O.S. efforts that night allowed community members to have their presence be felt, as the rally’s magnetic and energetic vibe gained the attention of those walking by. As Scott led chants, young people walking past slowed down to express their approval, nodding and commending S.O.S. efforts to bring attention to this important issue.

S.O.S. Outreach worker Derick Scott, pictured left, S.O.S. Clergy Action Network leader Revend Kevin Jones pictured above.