In the wake of gun violence, Chris Foye is doing his part to steer at-risk youth from negative alternatives and provide them with opportunities through his NeOn Arts Film and Music production program.
Foye is familiar with the consequences of gun violence—his son, Chris Owens, was killed by a stray bullet in April 2009 in Harlem. He is the executive director of the Chris S. Owens Foundation, which he started to extend his son’s legacy and change the culture of gun violence throughout New York City communities.
“When my son was killed, I knew I had to do something to change the mindset in the community,” he said.
In partnership with Carnegie Hall Weill Music Institute and the NYC Department of Probation, Foye’s program provides at-risk youth and individuals ages 16-24 with job transferable skills and encourages creativity through the arts. It operates Mondays and Tuesdays from 5-7 p.m.
Foye’s foundation won a grant from the NeOn Arts stakeholders, providing him with an opportunity to teach the youth in Brownsville and Staten Island how to write scripts and treatments, how to direct a camera and how to put their own projects together, and an opportunity to have musicians teach about music.
“I would like to put my program in every school in NYC and bring together all professionals that I deal with in my network to teach, all under gun violence prevention,” said Foye.
Foye was recently a part of a community Walk for Peace for 16-year-old Juwan ‘Chico’ Tavarez, who was shot in the head outside of the Jefferson Houses on Third Avenue on March 25. Community leaders and residents gathered to mourn Tavarez and protest against gun violence.
“The youth are really hurt and don’t know how to mourn, except for to pick up a gun and shoot somebody in retaliation,” said Foye.
Foye is also a program manager of Stand Against Violence East Harlem, a crisis management center that strives to reduce shootings and offers gang mediation. It offers counseling, educational support and vocational training.
Foye said he is planning a town hall meeting with the youth, community leaders and other organizations to further spread awareness on the dangers of gun violence. He wants to promote positivity, education and putting more resources into the community.
“Overall our message is community and youth development,” he said.
To find out more about the NeOn Arts program, visit thechrissowensfoundation.org or The Chris S. Owens Facebook page.