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 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.