According to a recent article, dozens of teenagers in the Crown Heights section of Brooklyn are getting the opportunity to create art while combating the gun violence that surrounds them. The grass roots movement is appropriately entitled “Youth Organizing to Save Our Street” as the teens proclaim their effort to end a culture of angry interactions that often lead to violent unnecessary deaths.
The program is coordinated by Heather Day, who aims not just to focus on discouraging gun violence but also to offer alternatives for conflict resolution that benefit the community.
“For a lot of our young people, violence has become part of their environment, part of their norm,” said Day. “We ask them about violence, and almost all of them say something from middle school,” said Day.
At Youth Organizing to Save Our Street, (YO-SOS) finding new ways to discuss issues or conflicts without resorting to violence is a mission that the teens fully embrace.
“Arts are a way to process that. It’s not as direct as me asking you to describe the scariest moment of your life. But if you have a chance to write a song, that’s a foot in the door. And that’s exactly one of our young men said. He was in a hip-hop group, and said he saw a young man shot in the chest. And he said, that could be me, that could be my friends. And that’s exactly what he channeled into his verse,” said Day.
While the organization creates a safe space for teens to congregate, it also creates leadership roles within the organization that builds important communication and business skills for the teens. Daniah Lewis, a Crown Heights local teen, had her first day interning with the organization and was quick to spread the message.
“There’s other ways and things you can do to keep yourself out of danger. And if you do have a conflict, there’s other ways to resolve that,” said Lewis.