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Amid COVID-19 and mass protests, Brooklyn gets a “Day of Healing”

On Thursday, Senator Zellnor Myrie and Kings Against Violence Initiative will hold free online workshops
A Kings Against Violence Initiative worker leads a healing circle. The nonprofit has created a digital version of the therapeutic practice in the age of coronavirus. Photo via Facebook

A local group devoted to fighting gun violence is teaming up with State Senator Zellnor Myrie to bring a day of virtual healing to a city ravaged by the coronavirus, mass protests and a recent spate of shootings.

The free online workshop is scheduled for Thursday, and will feature multiple therapeutic sessions throughout the day.

"Black and brown communities like ours have suffered incalculable losses of loved ones at higher rates than other groups. Many have lost our jobs, and if that were not enough, many of us have felt moved to participate in the marches against police brutality and have been threatened or abused by police while protesting peacefully," said a spokesperson for Myrie.

The Kings Against Violence Initiative (KAVI) is a nonprofit in central Brooklyn founded by Dr. Robert Gore, an emergency physician at Kings County Hospital who sought to help the young people coming through his trauma center to recuperate emotionally from gun violence. KAVI workers visit schools, community centers and hospital rooms, where they help young people learn to cope with trauma and to de-escalate conflict.

Jenne Richardson, the organization's program administrator, said photos that circulated on social media of Myrie after he was pepper sprayed and handcuffed during a George Floyd protest affected many of KAVI's participants.

"He spoke at the High School for Public Service graduation last year, and so a few of them are familiar with his face," she said. "So seeing people that they kind of looked up to being treated in the way that they were, kind of sat with them in a bit of unease."

During the virtual workshop, KAVI will host 90-minute "healing circles," an activity used to create an egalitarian space for sharing difficult feelings and traumatic experiences.

"Formalized therapy is difficult for people of color to access, whether due to affordability, stereotypes, pushing through your own mental barriers around it, or just finding a therapist that aligns with your cultural views," said Richardson. "With healing circles, you're invited into a therapeutic space that is more acceptable."

For more information and to sign up for workshops click here.