Black Innovation in the Gun Violence Prevention Movement
I first got involved in gun violence prevention while working at the Neighborhood House, a community center in the Portland area of Louisville, Kentucky. It was here that I learned that being innovative in the anti-gun violence movement means taking a holistic approach and tailoring successful prevention models to your communities’ needs.
As I got to know the kids at Neighborhood House, I learned about many of the challenges that they were grappling with on a daily basis and was inspired by the work the organization is doing to end gun violence in their communities.
To really address this issue, it’s critical to understand the current models that are successfully reducing the number of gun crimes and violence, and then being able to tailor these models to your context and work. Because thinking outside of the box is easier when you already know the dimensions of the box.
My work at Neighborhood House had me looking for ways to have a deeper impact. My family always encouraged and cultivated my ability to look for creative ways to overcome obstacles, and meeting Dr. Eddie Woods, one of the co-founders of No More Red Dots, further deepened my drive for innovative solutions for gun violence in our community.
Despite having little monetary support because of the lack of funding from city, state, and federal governments for gun violence prevention work at the time, Dr. Eddie Woods and Norman Martin founded and maintained No More Red Dots around 30 years ago.
Dr. Eddie became a mentor of mine, and I joined him and No More Red Dots to help make a difference. No More Red Dots’ mission is to intervene in as many potentially deadly situations as possible with the sole purpose of interrupting the activity stream that leads to death.
We promote peace through education and coaching young people to choose peace first, and we have a team of individuals supporting one another and striving to remove the “Red Dots” in Louisville, Kentucky. Our organization believes that many homicides and other adverse behaviors are the direct product of spontaneous decisions made without at least one of the involved participants being allowed to weigh their consequences and options.
As a program manager and prevention specialist at No More Red Dots, I assist the core team in planning and managing the day-to-day operation of programs we offer to our participants and their families. I focus on everything we can do to help our participants choose to change problem behaviors before they get into trouble, get hurt, or hurt others. I also help to create content to share with the community to inform them about our work and our services.
Our organization uses sports, the arts, and meet-up events to create the right types of environments to have one-on-one discussions and mediate conflicts. For example, we have facilitated teamwork and interpersonal connection between people with a history of conflict, allowing them to play alongside each other on the same team through our Peace League tournaments.
In our Peace Through the Arts program, we teach artisan trades to participants so that they can turn their skills into jobs or use art therapy and creative thinking as an escape from troubled homes or unsafe neighborhoods.
We might not be able to save the whole city, but we have helped so many and will continue working to help many more pivot away from behaviors and habits that lead to gun violence. Whenever I need the motivation to keep moving forward, I think about how Dr. Eddie Woods made such an impact with so little institutional support, supporting his team under tremendous constraints.
To learn more about No More Red Dots, visit our website or email us. We also have an application on our website for you to join us at our next event or to connect us with an individual that you feel could use our help. We have big plans for community events this year, so join us! And if you can’t be with us in person, you can be here in spirit by following our work or making a donation on our website—we welcome all support and thank the Everytown Community Safety Fund for their partnership over the years.
Learn More About No More Red Dots
When law enforcement departments track homicides, they usually use a red dot on a map to designate the community where the crime happened. No More Red Dots is a comprehensive strategy for reducing the numbers of red dots that appear on the maps.Learn More
Black History Month
This Black History Month, we hold space for the Black survivors of gun violence and recognize the gun safety advocates leading the charge at all levels to keep our communities safe. We know that we still have a long way to go to end gun violence—particularly its impact on the Black community, and we’re holding space for survivors of gun violence and Black advocates to continue to effect positive change. We are continuously working to stop gun violence through both grassroots and national channels, as we focus on and elevate the work and successes of the many Black voices who have helped progress the gun violence prevention movement and keep their communities—and the country—safe.
Mark Brown (he/him/his)
Creative Programs Director at No More Red Dots, an Everytown Community Safety Fund grantee