“We don’t need permission to save our own”: new group aims to reduce gun violence through accountability and activism

Content Warning: This article contains descriptions of violence. The reader’s discretion is advised.

A new group of activists that includes black politicians and other local leaders are aiming to take action against the rising tide of gun violence in Durham.

The group, One Thousand Black Men, held a public rally on September 25 calling on the public to reach out to young black men and politicians to fund projects that reduce poverty and intervene against gun violence.

Police data for September shows that although the number of burglaries, aggravated assaults and violent crimes is down, homicides have increased by 32% since last year.

An 11-year-old boy in East Durham was shot in the back by a stray bullet on January 22. A month later, five people were shot dead in four different shootings over a 24-hour period. On July 25, the bodies of Tyshawn Chavis, 24, and Donovan Bright, 26, were identified; both were gunned down inside a car on Interstate 85. More recently, Shamori Brown, 21, and Tavis Rhodes, 20, were shot and killed at Central University of North Carolina on September 18, and a pair were found shot after a police chase on October 23.

After a conversation about the deaths of young black men as a result of gun violence, Leonardo Williams, Mark-Anthony Middleton, Omar Beasley, John Rooks Jr. and Antonio Jones created OneKBM, an organization seeking to promote accountability not only in gun control, but in all aspects of public policy.

“It was a casual conversation, like ‘Damn, what are we going to do?’,” Williams said. “Looks like no one is doing anything. And that was a year and a half ago, things have been much worse since then.

The OneKBM website empowers people and politicians to be more responsible in areas such as public health and education. The organization approaches accountability through a ‘lens analysis’ by observing the status of black men in Durham through specified ‘lenses’ of policy, then using this qualitative data to understand the root causes of the problems facing communities. black from Durham.

“We meet with every black male principal and every black vice-principal in public schools in Durham, and we’re going to ask him: How do you see black men… in public safety together through your education lens? Williams said. “And we’re going to do the same process with public health… in economic development… in small businesses,” he continued.

In addition to their accountability goals, OneKBM leaders want to use their organization to ensure that young black men have access to mentors who support them. Mentors meet mentees, give them access to a network of pre-professional opportunities and encourage them to be positive members of their communities.

OneKBM’s mentoring program draws on the experiences of its founders. “Mentoring is handy on a day-to-day basis and it will always be different depending on who you spend that time with. But that time is what needs to be shared, ”said Williams.

The goal of the mentorship program is simple: OneKBM seeks to give every young black man in Durham the path to success by ensuring that they graduate with a suit and tie, get a job, or attend college. ‘Higher Education.

OneKBM’s philosophy is based on the urgent need to act.

“The One Thousand Black Men Collective is basically an initiative to ask black men across town to step up, get involved and not wait for a government institution to save us. We don’t need permission to save ours, ”said Williams. “Crime doesn’t wait for bureaucracy.”

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