From public housing to the White House, K. Bain’s the name for interrupting cycles of gun violence in New York City. This February, Pres. Joe Biden enlisted Community Capacity Development’s executive director to combat the leading cause of premature death throughout the United States. But the Brooklyn-born Bain was working hard in the gun violence prevention world long before he ever shook the firm grip of America’s commander-in-chief.

“In 2010, under the leadership of then-council member Jumaane D. Williams, I had the opportunity to work with him on creating a task force to address gun violence,” he said. “We were able to look at what best practices existed around the country, and also to grab some community stakeholders and leaders who have differing approaches to addressing not only gun violence, but also police brutality and distrust that existed in and out in communities of color.

“What we were very skillfully able to do as co-architects of the crisis management system in New York was to infuse this ‘Human Justice’ approach into the dialogue and into the solutions.”

Bain explains “Human Justice” is a combination of human rights and human development. Equality isn’t just the unalienable, fundamental rights each human is entitled to but also the opportunity for the most marginalized groups to obtain resources to close the gap. In other words, “Human Justice” is about both surviving and thriving. And the Afrocentric approach was certainly thriving—“Human Justice” was what initially brought the president to his door. 

“Pres. Biden [came] to my office and [turned] what should have been a 20-30 minute conversation into more of an hour and a half dialogue around how this ‘Human Justice’ framework and methodology have been so instrumental in not only reducing—but stopping—gun violence in New York City [and] also in other geographies around the country,” said Bain. 

Through his work, Bain realized those most prone to gun violence frequently lacked statements of purpose. So he devised his three-point “Sustainable Growth Plan,” using aspiration mapping, building bridges and content management as tools for personal transformation. In other words, Bain helped youngsters draft goals, create networks and develop healthier mindsets. 

The work speaks for itself. Bain took his ideas to the Queensbridge Houses in 2016. When the cameras were off, he orchestrated peace agreements and truces in the Long Island City project. Not a single shot was fired the entire following year at the nation’s largest public housing complex. Before then, he worked similar magic in Jamaica, Queens. Today, Bain’s Crisis Management system serves as a blueprint for a large swath of gun violence interrupters. In 2021, he was appointed to ex-mayor Bill de Blasio’s Racial Justice Commission. And he drafted the Community Safety Act, which increased NYPD oversight, prevented discriminatory profiling and curbed unlawful searches. 

Bain says he’s succeeded where so many failed because he and his peers can personally relate to the folks they’re helping. Some call them “credible messengers.” He prefers the term “real models”—pun intended. Bain hails from a prison family. And he’s come a long way from the expectations of his high school principal, who said he’d never graduate and would be incarcerated by age 21, if Bain was even alive by then. He’s certainly surpassed such expectations. Just ask the president of the United States.

Tandy Lau is a Report for America corps member and writes about public safety for the Amsterdam News. Your donation to match our RFA grant helps keep him writing stories like this one; please consider making a tax-deductible gift today by visiting: https://tinyurl.com/fcszwj8w

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