Driving progress on gun violence in communities – and in government

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With her organization LIFE Camp, Elevate Fellow Erica Ford’s groundbreaking programs and partnerships have contributed to resulted in a 10% reduction in violence in New York. Now she’s taking her spirit of change to Washington, working with the Biden Administration to secure $2.1

billion for the DOJ to address the gun violence public health crisis, in addition to the America’s Jobs Plan’s $8 billion over 5 years investment in community violence interventions.

“Investing in communities works,” says Erica. “Look at what we’ve been able to do. In our area 17 people were shot every year. That doesn’t happen now.”

LIFE Camp has always been a champion for a comprehensive, community-based approach, including recovery, prevention, mitigation and intervention. From mentorship, jobs and opportunities programs to initiatives like the PeaceMobile (#peaceisalifestyle), to mobile recording studios and yoga, their out-of-the-box thinking is driving change – that could be a model to inspire even more progress.

“We can’t police our way out of this thing, we have to make interventions before 911 calls are made.” Erica notes. “We need to address generational trauma. We need better opportunities for people. More therapeutic services and legal services. We have to be working with young people in schools. We have to invest in peace. Everywhere. All over. That’s what we want to see happen.

Though the issue of gun violence is complex, Erica remains optimistic. “Have faith that we can resolve this problem! Yes, gun violence isn’t simple. It’s not just a gun issue; it’s a youth programming issue, a mental health issue, a police issue, it’s a spectrum of trauma. That’s why we need people to spread the word. Lift the messages – and bring resources.”

So what can we do right now to help drive progress?

“First of all, reach out to your congress people and senator,” Erica recommends. “Push them to pass the vote for the jobs bill. And if you want to get more involved, go to Fund Peace Now and sign our endorsement letter, or text FUNDPEACE 51555 to get more info. We have meetings every Wednesday that you can join, connect with people, find resources you need, or partners in your work.

“Remember that you’re not alone. Find other folks who are in alignment with your mission and vision. Everyone won’t do everything, so meet people where they’re at. But together, if everyone does their little piece, if we’re all engaged on a personal to a community level, we can make a difference.  Change is coming. It’s slow, but it’s coming. Healing generations of trauma doesn’t end overnight. But we can make a real impact today, together.”

Take responsibility for your own peace. Some tips from Erica to de-escalate violence:

  1. Listen. This first one sounds simple: just listen.
  2. Check yourself.
  3. Acknowledge and accept the other individual’s emotions.
  4. Take responsibility for your part.
  5. Think about the outcome.

Check out the Biden-Harris fact sheet on the gun violence epidemic, learn more at Fund Peace Now – and hear Erica’s thoughts.

Watch our Instagram Live video conversation between Dr. Chad Bernstein from Guitars over Guns and Erica Ford of LIFE Camp.