U.S. Senate Majority Leader Charles "Chuck" Schumer applauds "From Sorrow to Solutions"

The Amsterdam News hosted the first of many planned virtual convenings for the Beyond the Barrel initiative on Monday, Feb. 27. This discussion, titled “From Sorrow to Solutions,” explores gun violence in Black and brown communities—what folks here at the city’s oldest and largest Black newspaper deem a public health crisis. 

The Beyond the Barrel initiative focuses on how gun violence can be reduced in Black and brown communities, rather than the traditional media strategies of covering shootings after they occur. 

“This convening is a landmark opportunity for journalists, academics, community leaders and members to come together and discuss how to end the scourge of gun violence in Black and brown communities,” said AmNews investigative editor Damaso Reyes. “All too often, members of the media do not do the important [thing] of listening to those who are most affected and have the most insight into this issue. We hope to begin the process of changing this dynamic with this event.”

Reyes moderated the discussion panels with publisher Elinor Tatum. U.S. Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer provided introductions. They were joined by familiar local faces in the gun violence prevention world, such as Harlem Mothers S.A.V.E. founder Jackie Rowe-Adams and Life Camp, Inc. founder Erica Ford. 

The scope of the event expands outside New York City, with experts from all over the country, such as Washington Informer publisher Denise Rolark Barnes and Hope and Heal Fund’s Refujio “Cuco” Rodriguez. 

“I found it as a way of supporting what [the Amsterdam News was] doing, but also to bring the conversation to other markets,” said Barnes. “I think cities where our newspapers are located—Black-owned newspapers—are challenged with gun violence. We’re all looking for the role that we can play as publishers and reporters and staff members to figure out what we can do to help to stem this gun violence that’s really devastating our communities right now.”

Her paper serves the Black communities of Washington, D.C., as well as neighboring areas in Maryland and Virginia. Barnes said there are specific challenges for addressing gun violence in the nation’s capital due to the lack of statehood—all citywide legislation needs congressional review, blending local politics with national politics and bogging down the process significantly. The U.S. Census estimates that roughly 45% of D.C. residents were Black last year. 

Across the country, Rodriguez serves as chief equity program officer for the Hope and Heal Fund in California. The state-backed organization emerged from a summit after the 2015 San Bernardino shooting and also tackles gun violence as a public health issue. 

“It’s really important as a philanthropic organization to identify work that’s occurring all throughout the country, because part of it is an understanding of how the issues are affecting different communities [and] looking at patterns of similarities and what projects are working—what are we learning?” he said.  “It’s an ever-evolving issue. And it is really important in terms of doing a lot of the work beyond just the state work. From our standpoint, it’s important that we look at the subtle differences and similarities in terms of what’s happening across the country.”

Barnes and Rodriguez spoke together on a panel covering challenges to gun violence solutions, including in media coverage. 

The convening is in partnership with the nonprofit news organization The Trace. 

For more information, visit https://amsterdamnews.com/beyondconvenings/.
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 of any amount today by visiting https://bit.ly/amnews1.

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