this is what i'm talking about.....we all should be setting up these types of initiatives in our communities.In the storefront window on Van Siclen Avenue, an electronic sign shows a running total of how long it has been since the last shooting took place in an area of roughly 20 square blocks in East New York, Brooklyn.
As of Thursday afternoon, the sign read:
363 Days No Shootings No Killings.
This week one year ago, a neighborhood development organization, Man Up!, began to send people into the streets to figure out where the violence was going next so they could hit the pause button. Mediate. Listen. Talk.
Some workers in the project had been street criminals themselves; others had been victims of violent crime, losing partners and children to it.
“You get tired of going to people’s funeral that you grew up with, or their kids’ funerals, from gun violence in the street,” a member of the group, Athena Collins, 43, said. The father of her five children was murdered.
At twilight on Wednesday, a boy biking through the grounds of the Boulevard Houses, a city housing project, saw five people from Man Up!, easy to spot by their T-shirts and the ID cards dangling from their necks.
“Hotep!” the boy hollered.
“Hotep,” replied Kenneth Watson, one of the group. It is an Egyptian word meaning peace, Mr. Watson explained. When Man Up! connected with young people — especially boys — it encouraged them to think and speak with pride in ancient African principles adapted to Brooklyn 2013.
The boy, De-Ron Jones-Gibbs, 14, said workers from Man Up! had come to his classroom months ago at J.H.S. 166 George Gershwin. “All the bad students would go in that one classroom,” De-Ron said.
Was he a bad student?
He giggled and nodded. “They’re brothers, mentors,” he said, adding that they pushed him to avoid fights “and to go straight home after school.”
The founder of Man Up!, Andre T. Mitchell, said the group was trained in public health approaches developed first in Chicago by the Cure Violence Initiative. The creator of the initiative, Gary Slutkin, an epidemiologist, advocated fighting violence as if it were an epidemic, so that it was essential to interrupt its spread — just as a contagious disease is contained or prevented.
“People think the violence is just about gangs, but it’s not really,” Mr. Mitchell said. “The majority are interpersonal disputes: ‘Why you looking at me?’ ‘No, why you looking at me?’ Our job is to get them before they reach for the gun.”
Man Up! is paid for mainly by the Young Men’s Initiative, a cluster of city programs intended to help young black and Latino men who were most likely to fall behind and to be victims of crime or involved in it. Those programs are heavily supported by the private philanthropy of Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg and the Open Society Foundation.
The area targeted by Man Up! is bounded by Linden Boulevard, Ashford Street, and Pennsylvania and Cozine Avenues, which includes three projects and three schools, and about 20,000 people, Mr. Mitchell said.
The streets felt relaxed. “It’s more productive out here since they came,” Craig Pruitt, 16, said, pausing from a playground basketball game. “You don’t have to worry about the violence.”
Asked Thursday about Man Up!, officials in the Police Department did not reply.
Mr. Mitchell said that safe streets required a strong police presence, but that the community had a primary role in keeping the peace.
“Everybody is responsible,” he said.
The authority of the Man Up! workers is “based on trust,” Mr. Watson said. “That people don’t see us as police officers. We don’t share any information with the police. Our job is to stop the shooting and killing. Minimize it.”
As a younger man, Mr. Mitchell said, he sold drugs, then went to prison for a manslaughter that he said he was not involved in.
A salesman in his drug business, Tislam Milliner, went to prison for an armed robbery. He is now known as the rapper Tiz and has the job with Man Up! of talking to people in the hospital after they have been shot.
“If they say, ‘I never seen you in my life,’ I’m going to tell you who I am,” Mr. Milliner said. “I’m who you are. I was once what you are.”
In the days before the group began, there were three homicides in the Man Up! zone, Mr. Mitchell said.
Were they tempting fate by talking about 363 days without shootings?
“If we happen to not make it, then we just work on our next year,” Mr. Milliner said. “Once you start believing that just because you made a year, we done solved this whole big problem, you’re a fool.”