By Tandy Lau | New York Amsterdam News | Word In Black
(WIB) – It took almost 114 years, but the Amsterdam News just hosted its first virtual convening for the newspaper’s “Beyond the Barrel of the Gun” initiative this past Monday, Feb. 28. Titled “From Sorrow to Solutions,” the online conversation invited anti-gun violence stakeholders to address shootings in Black and brown communities as a public health crisis.
Publisher Elinor Tatum and investigative editor Damaso Reyes took turns moderating the first three panels, which were split to cover the sorrow, challenges, and solutions stemming from gun violence. A fourth panel featured members from nonprofit news organization The Trace addressing media driven solutions when covering shootings.
In the first panel, Tatum was joined by Protect Our Stolen Treasures (P.O.S.T.) founder
Kimberly Davis, Harlem Mothers S.A.V.E. founder Jackie Rowe-Adams and Sacramento Observer publisher Larry Lee to talk about the leftover traumas from losing a loved one to gun violence.
“You understand that the person who was killed and after that pretty much everybody else goes on with their day,” said Davis, who lost her son Kimoni to a 2015 police shooting. “But as a mother of a child killed, we have to remember that every day. Not only is it a void in our family, that person could have added a staple in our society. They could have been a future doctor or lawyer or anything. So it’s not just the family that has the loss, it’s the community as well.”
Reyes hosted the second panel addressing the roadblocks to curing gun violence as a public health crisis. He was joined by Columbia University professor Dr. Charles Branas, Hope and Heal Fund Chief Equity Program Officer Refujio “Cuco” Rodriguez, The Washington Informer publisher Denise Barnes and Life Camp, Inc. founder Erica Ford, who championed community-based solutions.
“The criminalization, the more police—that’s easy, it doesn’t require [anything] to put a cop and say stop, I’m gonna rescue [you],” said Ford. “But to talk someone off a ledge and get them to put that gun down. [To] make a different decision on how they were going to address that interpersonal conflict. [To] help that family heal after they lose their child so that they don’t look to take another child’s life or they don’t look to take their own lives.
“Those are the real things and it tremendously impacts our city. Our government doesn’t invest in the people who need it the most.”
Community violence intervention shows people that [a] better path is available. Because the data is clear. Community intervention works, especially in tandem with traditional policing to address problems before the trigger is pulled. CHUCK SCHUMER, SENATE MAJORITY LEADER
Reyes and Tatum were joined on the penultimate panel by NYC Department of Education Chancellor David C. Banks, Knight Foundation Vice President of Journalism Jim Brady and Common Justice founder Danielle Sered to discuss creative solutions towards the gun violence problem. Banks recommended starting in the classroom.
“I was at Rikers Island a few months ago and I talked to all these young men,” he said. “I said ‘how did you wind up here’…each story had the commonality: a disconnection from school. While in Rikers, they were doing carpentry, electrical, HVAC and plumbing. They were learning a trade. One young man put a hand up and said, ‘Mister, if I was doing stuff like this when I was in school, I would’ve gone to school every day.’”
The last panel featured The Trace’s Jennifer Mascia, Mensah M. Dean and Justin Agrelo, along with Temple University researcher Dr. Jessica Beard. They highlighted news gathering methods that stray away from traditional shooting coverage and instead tackle the heart of the matter. The speakers advised young reporters to connect the dots and seek out patterns in local gun violence for bigger picture stories.
“Beyond the Barrel of the Gun” was announced last August as a three-year, solutions-based reporting initiative addressing gun violence in Black and brown communities. Monday’s convening is the first of 12 such conversations. Founded in 1909, The Amsterdam News is the city’s oldest and largest Black newspaper. Sorry in advance to the subscribers and weekly readers who already know this.
Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer recorded an introduction for the convening. He couldn’t make it live, but promised to try to attend the next one. The senator echoed the panelists, supporting local violence interruption efforts.
“There’s a better path than gangs, there’s a better path than guns, there’s a better path than shooting,” said Schumer. “And community violence intervention shows people that [a] better path is available. Because the data is clear. Community intervention works, especially in tandem with traditional policing to address problems before the trigger is pulled.
“We all need to do our part. Well, the Amsterdam News and Elinor [Tatum] sure are as usual.”
Interested in getting involved with “Beyond the Barrel?” Reach out to Sam.Bennett@AmsterdamNews.com.
The entire convening can be viewed on the Amsterdam News’ YouTube channel.
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.