‘No child will die of gun violence in Lansing’: Goal announced at community conversation on violence
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: October 18, 2021
LANSING— On Saturday, One Love Global hosted a conversation with community leaders on the issue of violence in Lansing. The event was held in response to numerous deaths from gun violence this year, including children, and the need for collective action. They asked for everyone willing to join this collective and build community safety together, to fill out an interest form: https://forms.gle/HhgEzdFk3qKjMZUp6.
“We’ve lost 31 individuals to gun violence this year,” said Sean (Mordecai) Holland, Director of Transformational Leadership at One Love Global. The names of these individuals were written on the whiteboard behind him. “The FBI has now determined that Lansing per capita is the ninth most violent city in America. I know there’s not a person in here that signed up for that. … Our purpose is to not just talk and point fingers, but to get together and strategize.”
This conversation on violence was part of the Lansing People’s Assembly, which has brought community members together for more than a year to strategize on solutions to issues that are important to the community. The event underscored that addressing violence is not about placing blame on individuals, it is about working together, investing in the community, and proactively addressing the conditions that enable violence to persist. “Violence is a racial equity issue,” said One Love Global CEO, Angela Waters Austin. “Community violence is on the same coin, it’s just on the other side of police violence, and we have to begin to understand how starving our communities, how defunding our youth, how defunding our neighborhoods actually creates the conditions for violence.”
Conversations about ending violence in the community are not new. Waters Austin talked about the history of the youth-led organization Peace & Prosperity Youth Action Movement (PPM) beginning a decade ago in response to community violence, and youth, pastors, and community members coming together to address it, and yet the problems persisting. This year, youth organizers from PPM and Freedom Summer launched #WhyThemShoes, a social media campaign and art project to raise awareness about gun violence and the need for community-driven solutions. Through the campaign, youth have advocated for moving funding to their community and schools rather than policing in an effort to prevent root causes of violence rather than criminalize those who are hurting. The youth have been clear in naming that gun violence by police is still gun violence, and the solution is not more policing.
Since the death of George Floyd, communities across the country have advocated for civil rights legislation to end racial inequity and violence. Participants in the Lansing People’s Assembly have envisioned a Lansing BREATHE Act, based on the national omnibus bill, to invest in the community and prevent violence through mentorship, education, mental health support, meeting basic needs, and intentional community-based structures and practices.
Efforts to change policy, however, have been met with pushback. “It was the National Sheriff’s Association that defeated the George Floyd Act,” Waters Austin reminded attendees. “We saw police protect a murderer while the murder was happening. He took a knee on George Floyd’s neck and looked right in the camera in defiance to make sure that you knew that this is what they think about you taking a knee to demand justice. All the George Floyd Act asked for was to end qualified immunity so that police could be held accountable like you or I would. They said no, we are above the law, and we have the money and the power to defeat anything that you will do to try to hold us accountable.”
Notably, there are leaders who are working with the community to demonstrate transparency, accountability, and to end all forms of violence including state-sanctioned violence. Organizers highlighted data compiled by the Ingham County Prosecutor's Office in partnership with the Vera Institute of Justice, examining where there are racial disparities. The data have led to important decisions in the Ingham County Prosecutor’s office to handle cases in new ways to reduce disparities, without compromising public safety. The partnership is a powerful example of how working together in the community can bring truth to light and get others involved. “We need to have this conversation with our mayor, our city council, our principals,” said Holland. “What community would accept this? Not one that’s awake.”
Following group discussions, One Love Global announced their bold goal for 2022: that no child will die from gun violence in Lansing. “Our children are now ancestors – do you understand that?” asked Waters Austin, as she invited the room to call in and honor their ancestors. “And it is our duty – it is our duty – to love each other and to protect each other.”
“It should be clear from the conversation today,” continued Waters Austin, “that One Love Global can’t do it alone... As fabulous as the Peace & Prosperity Youth Action Movement is, our youth cannot solve this problem alone. So we chose a goal that requires us to collaborate with others – with other organizations, with elected officials who we do not see eye to eye with, but who control the resources that our children need and deserve – and we’re gonna heal.”
Organizers and comments from the community highlighted the importance of accountability in leadership and in our relationships with one another. Holland encouraged community members to speak up, share their thoughts during assemblies, and share feedback about the Lansing People’s Assembly process to ensure every person’s voice is heard: “We can’t call for accountability if we’re not able to walk in it ourselves. So we’re holding ourselves accountable to this goal, and we’re asking the community to hold us accountable as well.”
The event also included a table for voter information, and organizers encouraged everyone to vote on November 2nd.
Organizations that want to be a part of the collective work to ensure no youth die from gun violence are invited to fill out an interest form at https://forms.gle/HhgEzdFk3qKjMZUp6..
One Love Global’s mission is to transform communities so Black children experience justice, peace, healing, opportunity, and abundance. We envision global liberation and reparations where Black people experience radical love of self, community, and planet.