As the rate of crime rises throughout the country, the 67th Precinct Clergy Council in Brooklyn, popularly known as the GodSquad, along with other national clergy-led groups, hosted a timely gun violence training for faith leaders on July 1.
Designed to educate participants of battle-tested models of reducing gun violence, the GodSquad said the intensive training covered topics such as: the role of faith, the work of gun violence prevention, street-level engagement and on the ground outreach, season of peace model and best practices from around the country.
Among the presenters was Rev. Jeffrey Brown, one of the key architects behind the “Boston Miracle,” which saw the violent crime rate among youth plummet by 79 percent over a decade.
“If we are going to stop the violence in our communities, we are not going to be able to preach our way through it,” Brown told faith leaders. “We are going to have to do something unconventional. We must learn to listen and not preach.”
Brown works with faith groups, cities, government, and police to stop gang violence as the President of Rebuilding Every Community Around Peace (RECAP) and co-founder of My City at Peace.
Other presenters during the two-hour event included: The Rev. Charles Harrison, president of Indianapolis TenPoint Coalition USA; Pastor Delonte Gholston, president of Peace Walk DC; the Rev. Ciera Walker, executive director of LiveFree Chicago; and the Revs. Charles Galbreath, Louis Straker Jr., and Edward-Richard Hinds, Pastor Wilmouth Seaton and President Pastor Gil Monrose of The GodSquad.
Brooklyn Borough President Eric Adams and NYC Public Advocate Jumaane also briefly attended the virtual summit to lend support and deliver brief remarks.
Adams commended the GodSquad and the other clergy-led groups for organizing the timely event amid uptick in shootings and ahead of the July 4 holiday weekend.
“We must ask that faith leaders reach out beyond the church walls, synagogue walls, mosque walls to the everyday people on our road to recovery,” he said.
Williams said: “As we move into the summer, it gets hotter, not just in temperature. If we are not honest about the story behind the numbers, we will be dishonest about the response.
“Sometimes, people want to feel safe, even if they aren’t safer,” he said. “We want to focus on both – feeling safe and being safe.
“When the numbers go up, which they do cyclically, people sometimes say what we need is more police, which then causes another problem of over policing,” Williams added. “So, it’s about working in partnership.”
US Virgin Islands (USVI) native, Pastor Monrose said he convened the national training, which attracted 200 participants from across the USA, USVI and even Trinidad and Tobago.
“More than ever before, we are challenged to take control of our cities,” he charged faith leaders in his call for action. “Over the past nine days, 112 people were injured or killed in shootings in New York City and 167 in Chicago over the past two weeks.
“What we need now to end gun violence in America is faith that it can be done, the will to act and the tools to bring about change,” Monrose added. “Now is the time for faith leaders to respond to the urgent to lead and be partners in creating a safer city.
“Public safety is a shared responsibility, and we as clergy must do our part to end the epidemic of senseless gun violence in our beloved communities,” he urged, charging participants to encourage everyone they know across the USA to complete the 2020 Census and “help ensure fair representation and the requisite funding we need in our communities for the fight against gun violence.”
The GodSquad said it “deeply appreciates” the support of Assistant Chief Kim Royster, Community Affairs Bureau, New York Police Department (NYPD), who thanked the clergy for working on a safe summer.
“I learned so much,” said Chief Royster who attended the training for its entire duration.
The GodSquad also thanked the partners who helped to make the event a “remarkable success”, namely: Institute for Nonviolence Chicago, Live Free Chicago, Peace Walks DC, Project H.O.O.D, ROC Against Violence Coalition, Season of Peace and TenPoint Coalition USA.
The GodSquad was also “very grateful” to the ADL New York / New Jersey team for providing the technical.
ADL said it was “so proud to participate on this now pivotal event to help train clergy to fulfill their role in the fight against violence and hate.
“It takes all of us to win this fight,” it said.