Wednesday, July 31, 2013

Introducing "Hair Me Out," our new outreach initiative

In the last few weeks, our S.O.S. intern Angela Wright has begun a new program called "Hair Me Out," an initiative aimed to get barbers and beauticians involved in discussions about putting an end to gun violence. The goal of Hair Me Out is to postively impact the local mentality around gun violence, and to influence people to work towards a safer and more productive community. Angela,  who is directing the Hair Me Out program, says she hopes to get people take initiative and do the right thing without being told.

 "You may never know what results come of your actions," she said, "but if you do nothing, there will be no results."
So far, Angela and S.O.S. Outreach Worker Derick Scott have visited seven barbershops and one beauty salon, speaking to barbers and beauticians about their role in making the community safer. Angela has come up with a series of questions that are posted on the mirrors and walls in barbershops, along with markers for people to respond. The prompts include questions like, "How can a positive role model make a difference in people's behavior?" or, "What role do you think violence in the media has on violence in our neighborhoods? 

Angela reported that sometimes she has difficulty introducing the topic. 

"People don't always think there is a problem, they just think this violence is normal," she said. But when she posed the question, "What do you believe causes the anger and hostility that makes people want to grab a gun?" she got many responses, pointing to money, not knowing God, or lack of care for the future or consequences as root causes for violence and anger.

"These questions have caused people to think deeply about the root causes of violence, and gets them to notice that there really is a problem in the community," Angela said. "That is the first step to action."

Friday, July 19, 2013

S.O.S. Appreciates Our Volunteers, Receives Appreciation in Return

S.O.S. staff and volunteers gathered at the Mediation Center on Wednesday night to celebrate volunteers' service and dedication to our work and our community. Over 30 volunteers, some of whom have worked with the Mediation Center since its inception, and others who this year became integrally involved in our work, shared in the food, drinks and warm atmosphere of the evening.

Volunteer coordinator Ariana Siegel thanked volunteers for the vital role they play in S.O.S. operations, often acting as the face of our events as they greet guests, hand out food, or run activities. "Every day brings a reason to thank volunteers," she said, "whether it's an old friend coming by to stay in touch, a new volunteer offering his or her expertise, a volunteer photographer documenting our events, or a youth volunteer bringing enthusiasm to an internship. We appreciate you every day, and today we get a chance to say it."
YO S.O.S. Youth Organizer Victoria Renna Speaks to the volunteers

Several Mediation Center and community leaders spoke to the volunteers to share their gratitude. Mediation Center director Amy Ellenbogen quoted Richard Green of the Crown Heights Youth Collective, who said, "Spiders united can tie up an elephant." She added, "I really believe that the folks in this room can be the spiders that tie up the violence that is plaguing the community and replace it with a caring compassionate community."

S.O.S. Program manager Allen James told the volunteers that their efforts to improve the community distinguished them. "It's actually the most natural thing in the world to volunteer" he said, "but you wouldn't know it because so few people do. You are the people that do."

After watching a slideshow depicting the work they did this year, volunteers Willard Hawkins, Antoinette Brice, Tiffany Murray and Victoria Renna shared thoughts on their experiences. Willard, who has volunteered with the Mediation Center for many years, as well as worked with labor organizing and other endeavors, said that this was "the most meaningful and rewarding experience" he's had as an activist. Antoinette spoke of the son she lost to gun violence, and how she now works with S.O.S. to tell young black and latino men that they are "men of purpose and men of destiny," whose lives are meaningful and not worth wasting on gun violence.

Volunteer Antoinette Brice admires her new volunteer shirt
Tiffany Murray, who began volunteering this year and ultimately hosted and planned an event, spoke of the many communities she has lived in, and how she particularly wanted to be involved in this one because it is, "one of the most vibrant and empowering communities I've ever encountered." Our Mediation Center intern and YO S.O.S. Youth Organizer Victoria Renna said that her experience here taught her how to speak to people and be an activist. "People here actually like coming to work every day," she said, admiring the S.O.S. team and Mediation Center staff for their hard work to help the community.

Finally, the S.O.S. team came out to thank the volunteers for their support. Outreach Worker Supervisor Lavon Walker explained how important it was for the team, who risk their lives in their work to reduce gun violence in the streets, to feel that people in the community appreciated and supported their work. Before heading home volunteers received t-shirts and certificates of merit, and promised to join us for our "100 Man March to End Gun Violence" next Sunday, June 27th.

To get involved with the S.O.S. as a volunteer, email Ariana Siegel at, or contact the Mediation Center at 718-773-6886, or visit us at 256 Kingston Avenue.

Tuesday, July 9, 2013

The Mediation Center is hiring!

We are looking to add a new member to our team!  The Crown Heights Community Mediation Center is hiring an “Office Manager and Neighbor Services Coordinator."  The Office Manager is a critically important member of our team.  Please help us get the word out about this position and apply yourself if you think you'd be a good fit. 

The person in this role plays an integral role in keeping the office organized, communicating about the Center’s programming to the public and attending community meetings, maintaining various contact databases, providing referral services to walk-in clients, and performing all necessary fiscal duties. The Office Manager may be tasked with community programming on an as needed basis, such as organizing a resource fair or planning a tabling event.

This position requires a highly organized, detail-oriented individual, capable of taking initiative and working with minimal supervision in a fast-paced environment. Time management and the ability to prioritize are important skills for this role. The individual must be courteous, have excellent communications skills, and be comfortable working with people from a diverse range of backgrounds. The ideal candidate has some supervisory experience, an interest in community-building and anti-violence work, and some familiarity with New York City public benefits and services.

For a complete job description and instructions on how to apply, please click here. The deadline to apply is July 31st, 2013.

Tuesday, July 2, 2013

Community Rally Marks 4th Shooting in June

On Friday, June 28th, S.O.S. Crown Heights organized a community rally next to a small memorial display on St. Johns Place between Troy and Schenectady Avenues in response to the 6/25 fatal shooting that occurred at that location. Approximately 20 neighborhood residents, including the family of the victim attended. The rally marked the 4th shooting in the month of June and the second shooting fatality. Neighbors at the rally gathered together to tell the community, "Stop Shooting, Start Living."