In commemoration with the birthday of Martin Luther King Jr., Peace Week kicked off their 10th anniversary with a press conference on the steps of City Hall to inspire the youth and communities to take on peace and continue the fight against gun violence.
Peace Week uses the week, Jan. 15-Jan. 22, to host many events designed to inspire and promote peace in the community and among youth. One of the activities involves the Forgiveness Dinner, aimed towards bringing families together who have witnessed the devastating aftermath of gun violence.
In attendance for the press conference were Public Advocate Jumaane Williams; Erica Ford, CEO and founder of LIFE Camp; Families of gun violence victims; anti-violence activists; NYC councilmembers; Melinda Katz, Queens District Attorney; Councilmember Vanessa Gibson; Jessica Mofield, executive director of NYC Office to Prevent Gun Violence; A.T. Mitchell, CEO and founder of ManUp!; Shanduke McPhatter, CEO and founder of G-M.A.C.C.; Iesha Sekou, CEO and founder of Manhattan Street Corner Resources; Ife Charles, CEO and founder of SOS Bronx; Kevin Livingston, CEO and founder of 100 Suits; Hassan “Giant” Yasin, CEO and founder, Bartendaz; Mike Perry, program manager at True 2 Life; and NYC Crisis Management System Violence Intervention Staff.
“It’s tremendously important for me to be here considering myself and my other colleagues here, Erica Ford and Hassan from the ‘Bartendaz” as we were amongst one of the first organizers to think of such a concept and introduce it to the city of New York,” states A.T. Mitchell, CEO and founder of ManUp! “So to see that it has grown over the 10 years consecutively is a wonderful experience and says a lot about the impact we are making on the city and the work that we are doing to reduce gun violence that is happening in our neighborhoods.”
Other events that will take place during Peace Week are Open Mic Night, Operation Hood Peace Art and Crafts Workshop, Connect Monthly Faith Roundtable: Creating Cultures of Peace, Bowling for Peace and Sip & Paint Time For Healing, to name a few.
“We are here trying to reach the youth, the communities and the people in power,” states Hassan “Giant” Yassin, CEO and founder of Bartendaz. Yassin emphasizes the significance of the youth and community on acquiring healthy thoughts, spirituality and maintaining peace. He wants to set an example for this to be not just “talking the lifestyle but living it.”
Youth Development Specialist Rashaun Donovan said, “It’s important that we teach the youth to stand on these principles, be non-violent and change their mindset by moving forward peacefully. It’s very important for me to be here to recognize the hard fight that Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. fought for then with non-violence and that’s what we basically stand on…we started from this, it’s the origin of everything.”
According to the NYPD statistics on gun violence, in 2019 gun violence in boroughs like Brooklyn increased.
Brooklyn Borough Pres. Eric Adams mentions that gun violence has changed over the years. “We don’t have those 2,000 homicides that we had during the early ’90s but in reality they’re still in the crevices of our city. There’s still the large disproportionate amount still in the Brownsvilles, the South Side of Chicago, Liberty Cities and is still in areas with predominantly people of color. The manufacturers come from outside and the guns are within our community. We can do more. We cannot rest on our success of yesteryear. Let’s continue to be dogmatic about it,” he states. “Peace Week is important because it shows how you could bring peace about by having a holistic approach and you look at some of the names here and they have been doing this for a long time and really that’s the success of how we turn around violence in the city.”
This year’s Peace Week was hosted by LIFE Camp Inc. (a non-profit organization founded by Erica Ford and dedicated to preventing youth violence and providing empowerment opportunities for youth), the City of New York and the NYC Crisis Management System (a network of 22 violence intervention and prevention sites, simultaneously operating across 17 communities citywide in neighborhoods that have the highest occurrence of shooting incidents).
“Peace week is calling us to something higher in my view that we can actually reach,” says Mayor Bill de Blasio.
For a list of Peace Week’s public events, visit: www.peaceweeknyc.com.