Friday, April 26, 2013

Artists Encourage Youth to Follow their Passions

The CHCMC hosted eight artists on Wednesday, April 24th, to speak on a panel about what it means to turn artistic ambitions into a lifelong career. The “Life of an Artist” panel included professionals in various fields: painting, photography, poetry, prose, music and filmmaking. Among the accomplished artists were filmmaker Randy Wilkins, who has worked with director Spike Lee, music photographer Jacob Blickenstaff, who works for the New York Times, published author June Eding, and singer/songwriter Markeisha Ensley, whose music has won many awards and fans worldwide. The panel also included prominent local voices such as visual artists LaRonz Murray, Leon Tillman, Sahara Borja and poet Morgan Park.

The accomplished artists spoke to an audience of community members and young people from our Youth Organizing to Save Our Streets program, in which high-school students learn to organize against gun violence. The youth, several of whom have artistic ambitions themselves, asked probing questions such as “what are your greatest challenges as an artist?”, “how do you deal with the business side of the art world?” and “how do you respond to criticism that making art is not a worthy life-goal?”

Encouraged by the energy and enthusiasm of the youth and community members, the artists shared experiences from their personal and professional artistic lives. They advised the youth organizers to always self-promote and talk to people, to be disciplined and practice their skills daily, to take themselves seriously and most importantly, to always do what they love. “Keep discouragement out of your head,” Leon Tillman, a visual artist currently seeking a teaching job, said.

The panel event was part of our Arts to End Violence festival, a series of events that promote the arts as a way of starting anti-violence dialogue. Upcoming events include a street photography workshop on May 6th, the Kingston Avenue Festival on May 18th, and the Gallery Opening on May 23rd. Click for more information about Upcoming Events or Arts to End Violence. Click here to see images submitted to this year’s Arts to End Violence contest on our tumblr account.

Monday, April 22, 2013

Crown Heights has Got Talent!

Photos by Andrew Hinderaker

Over 80 performers in 28 acts played to a packed house on Saturday at the S.O.S. annual “Stop Shooting, Start Living” Talent show held at PS 289. Singers, rappers, poets, and dancers of all genres flaunted their talents for a cheering audience of over 400 people. Photos of the performers can be seen here on Facebook, or here for those people not on Facebook.

Coordinated by Anthony Newerls and co-sponsored by the Brooklyn Blizzards, the S.O.S. Talent show event was free and open to the whole community. Throughout the event performers supported the S.O.S. message, with many sporting t-shirts that read “stop shooting start living” as their costumes for their step, praise, African, tap, and break dance performances. Several rap lyrics promoted anti-violence, including a little girl who called for other kids to “stop bullying,” and a neighborhood mother who rapped, “I’m tired of seeing shirts saying ‘rest in peace’… Peace, we need it in the hood. We got to fight for peace ‘cause it ain’t looking good.” Lyrics such as these received raucous applause from mothers, fathers, grandparents and children alike.

The audience remained in high spirits through the afternoon with the help of Sharon “Ife” Charles who MC’ed the three-hour event with flair. Sporting earrings that read “Stop Shooting, Start Living,” Charles, who worked for 12 years at the Crown Heights Community Mediation Center, said to the audience, “I am working on anti-violence for the whole city now, but Crown Heights is my community! This is my home!” Between performances Charles quizzed the crowd about the S.O.S. program, introducing the team on stage and coaching the crowd to call out, “S. O. S., Save Our Streets!” in unison.

When the performances wound to a close the S.O.S. team conducted a raffle to hand out prizes donated generously by Tech-serve, Denzil’s auto-driving school, Dr. Margaret DeCruz, The Brooklyn Children’s museum, and others. Among the fabulous prizes were a free massage, a bag of arts supplies, and most coveted, an iPad mini. The community left PS 289 on Saturday evening with S.O.S. giveaways in their hands, smiles on their faces, and messages of peace in their heads.

Friday, April 19, 2013

First Community Conversation Reveals Neighbors' Insights and Commitment

On Wednesday, April 10th, Over 30 local residents and activists came to talk about how gun violence affects our lives and our neighborhood. The crowd at S.O.S.’s first Community Conversation overflowed the Mediation Center’s conference room.

S.O.S. Program Manager Allen James invited participants to share their reasons for taking part in the discussions about neighborhood violence – particularly gun violence. In attendance were many people interested in supporting peacemaking efforts and improving life in the neighborhood: experienced community organizers, teachers, parents, service providers, the wife of an unjustly incarcerated man, and young men who spoke of their involvement in street violence.

Participants made many insightful statements about how they understood gun violence and what motivates it. They shared observations that young people are often victimized and humiliated in home and school environments, and that they react with behaviors that sometimes include violence. Others pointed to the historical and systemic structures and policies that engender feelings of frustration and hopelessness in the community. Examining why neighbors do not collaborate to care for and interact with youth on the streets as a “village,” one person remarked, “We fear our children.”

The goal of the Community Conversations series is to broaden and deepen our understanding of violence. This first conversation was meant to examine how we experience violence in our lives and how we think about it. Wednesday’s conversation touched on the idea that we only notice extreme forms of violence, like gunfire, and tend not to notice the low level violence that happens every day, like minor insults, expressions of hostility and aggression, gossip and jokes that humiliate others. In our subsequent conversations, we will explore things that each of us can do to improve the quality of life in Crown Heights, and work against all forms of violence.

Reverend Kevin Jones, the S.O.S. Clergy liaison, closed the session with a spiritual message to inspire the crowd. "If we all remembered the golden rule in the bible, if we all treated one another the way we want to be treated, there wouldn't be gun violence," the Pastor said. “Love is what we need in this community.”

Tuesday, April 9, 2013

S.O.S. Community Conversation

Join S.O.S. Crown Heights for the first in a series of conversations about ending violence in our neighborhood and beyond.We want to hear your voice!

Monday, April 8, 2013

S.O.S. celebrates 35 days without shootings

SOS team with community members
Photos by Andrew Hinderaker
At the end of March S.O.S. celebrated a special landmark: 30 days without a shooting. Five days later, with peace still reigning in the streets, S.O.S. brought the celebration to the community to mark 35 days without gun violence.

“That’s 35 days of peace, 35 days where you can walk outside safely, 35 days when your children can come home from school without having to duck, 35 nights where we can fall asleep without the sound of gunshots,” Derick Scott, S.O.S. Outreach worker, said into the loudspeaker.

S.O.S. staff and volunteers held up signs reading, “Don’t shoot! I want to grow up” and gave out candy to passerby on the busy corner of Eastern Parkway and Utica avenue. Passerby clapped enthusiastically when Marlon Peterson, deputy director of the CHCMC, told the community to give themselves a round of applause for this achievement.

Rabbi Eli Cohen and SOS Outreach Worker Derick Scott
Photos by Andrew Hinderaker
Several members of the S.O.S. Clergy Action Network joined the rally, including Rabbi Eli Cohen of the Crown Heights Jewish Community Council, who said into the loudspeaker, “We are very proud of your achievement today. We’re here to support the SOS team and to thank them for the hard work they do in the streets, making our community safer for everyone.”

To learn more about how the S.O.S. team works to make our streets safe from gun violence, and what you can do to help, join us for the first-ever “S.O.S. Community Conversation,” next Wednesday, April 10th from 6-8pm at the Crown Heights Community Mediation Center, 256 Kingston Ave. For more information email Ariana at or call 718-773-6886. To view more photos of this event click here.

Today marks 40 days without shootings-- let's keep the peace going.

Monday, April 1, 2013

Upcoming Events

For more upcoming events, see our "Upcoming Events" Tab.

"Thirty Days" Celebration
Wednesday, April 3rd

S.O.S. "Community Conversations"
Wednesday, April 10th

S.O.S. Talent Show
Saturday, April 20th