U.S. Senator Charles Schumer Credit: Ariama C. Long photo

Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer met with electeds, such as U.S. Rep Adriano Espaillat, Manhattan District Attorney Alvin Bragg, Sen. Cordell Cleare, along with Stand Against Violence East Harlem (SAVE) and community groups to discuss funding for violence intervention programs in the Build Back Better bill on Friday, Nov 19.

Schumer said that he would strive to keep funding control for Crisis Management System and violence intervention programs in organizers’ hands because many were community-led to begin with. Each borough is unique in how it approaches gun violence and violence reduction, he said, and the money should be provided from the Build Back Better bill but not dictated. 

Now that the nearly $2 trillion bill has passed the House and is awaiting a vote from the Senate, Schumer is trying to keep as much funding in for various city programs as possible. “This is a grassroots movement and you need the dollars,” said Schumer to a crowded room of volunteers and elected officials. “I’m inspired by this.”

At the roundtable, organizers and violence interrupters spoke about their experiences on the ground canvassing, training to “stop the bleed” in case of a shooting or incident, counseling, and conflict resolution in real-time to reduce gun violence.   

Above all, they spoke about a clear need for more sustainable funding to support the city’s CMS workers and various violence interrupter programs. 

Shanduke McPhatter, founder of Gangstas Making Astronomical Community Changes Inc. (GMACC), said that the cure violence model is community-led and the basis for the city’s CMS today. He demonstrated that violence interrupter workers without sufficient programming, outreach, and support is inadvisable. “The violence interrupter is to quell and interrupt the transmission of violence,” said McPhatter. “Once that happens and I’ve identified this person as a potential shooter or be shot, then I have to figure how to help him or her not shoot.” He said that the basis of the model becomes about building relationships and trust, which takes time and investment. 

Many of the organizers present emphasized the “therapeutic component” to borough wide violence intervention programs as well.

LIFE Camp’s Tracy Queene, who is executive of therapeutic services, gave a brief tour of the organization’s bright orange peace mobile bus that was conspicuously parked outside the SAVE East Harlem building on East 117th Street. 

Queene showed off the space, imbued with the scent of citrus as soon as you step up the small collapsible stairs. The surprisingly large bus has a gaming center, fitness equipment, recording studio, and is meant to be a calming space where they often hold meetings and healing circles for people in need of stress relief, she said.

Not Another Child organizer Oresa Napper Williams, who lost her son to gun violence, spoke about taking community members touched by gun violence on retreats as part of their outreach. She said that this year’s trip to the Poconos was very moving. 

“For a mother to just be around a campfire with a blanket and her child’s picture on it and able to throw a log in which conveys the weight that they have on their shoulders since their baby was killed,” said Williams, “it’s therapeutic.”

Ariama C. Long is a Report for America corps member and writes about culture and politics in New York City for The Amsterdam News. Your donation to match our RFA grant helps keep her writing stories like this one; please consider making a tax-deductible gift of any amount today by clicking here: bit.ly/amnews1

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