This past Saturday, faith and community leaders gathered at Israel Memorial AME Church in Newark to host a training session to mobilize the community, reduce gun violence and advocate for reforms that would end mass incarcerations. The training was part of a national campaign to support President Barack Obama’s My Brother’s Keeper initiative, which is aimed at addressing the unique problems facing young men of color.
One day before the event, a 23-year-old Newark man was shot dead while another man is in critical condition after a shooting near 18th Avenue and Smith Street, according to law enforcement officials. Newark has seen its murder rate spike, with a record 111 murders in 2013. Last year had the highest murder rate since 1990.
People Impoving Communities Through Organizing (PICO), a national network of faith-based community organizations, sponsored the training. They say they want to empower local faith leaders to work together to reduce gun violence and mass incarcerations in New Jersey.
“As Americans and people of faith, our values teach us that we have a shared responsibility to each other. I am my brother’s keeper, and I am my sister’s keeper,” said Pastor Michael McBride, director of PICO National Network’s Lifelines to Healing Campaign. “Over the next 90 days, we will work together in our cities and communities. When young people wake up to go to school, they can learn and be successful. When they return home at night, they can feel safe and free from violence and trauma. We are calling on everyone across the country to preach, pray and act to heal our nation.”