I am the founder and president of Our 3 Memorial Foundation, Inc., an organization dedicated to preventing intimate partner violence by impacting individual behaviors and relationships through education, safety advocacy, and community engagement.
I got into this work out of necessity. It began as a part of my grief-healing journey after my niece Jacquelon Gaskin, great-niece Gianna, and great-nephew Giovanni were murdered during an act of domestic violence. Unexpectedly losing three special people at the same time really changed how I viewed the world around me. I wondered if I missed signs leading up to their killings and wanted to get more educated on the topic of domestic violence.
As I volunteered at local shelters and organizations, the different circumstances I encountered made me want to initiate change in my community and make an impact in the fight against domestic violence. I decided to speak up and be the voice for our three angels who had their voices stolen. Their memory is my motivation to keep going when days seem bleak and the desired impact—reducing domestic and intimate partner violence—seems so far out of reach.
The organization and our domestic violence survivor clients are an important part of my day-to-day life. When I hear from a past client who has achieved complete separation from their abuser, the gratification I feel is unmatched. Those follow-up calls or emails always seem to show up at the right time and remind me why we do what we do.
A day of work for Our 3 Memorial Foundation ranges dramatically. Some days are spent brainstorming and creating innovative ways to spread awareness about domestic violence. Others are spent hosting or participating in awareness events and engaging our community in those tough domestic violence conversations. But most days are spent providing client-based services such as crisis transportation, safety advocacy, ID replacement, or accompaniment to the hospital or court.
Because Our 3 Memorial Foundation is so personal, I am always on the front lines of every program, communication, event, and initiative involving the organization. I assist with everything from completing new client intakes to education and service provision. And as a credentialed advocate, I provide safety planning and advocacy services for our survivors.
Many of us have seen the statistics: We know that Black communities have higher rates of injury and death by firearms than other communities and that Black communities are broadly disproportionately impacted by gun violence. It’s important to consider the challenges and disparities faced by Black individuals and neighborhoods in terms of both interpersonal violence and systemic issues. Advocating for a comprehensive approach to gun violence prevention that addresses the root causes, including social issues like poverty, lack of educational opportunities, and systemic racism is also important.
Community members should be active participants in decision-making processes related to violence prevention initiatives. Elevating Black voices in the gun violence prevention space helps ensure that the root causes of this are fully understood and effectively addressed. And it is essential to ensure that the proposed strategies and solutions reflect the experiences and needs of Black communities.
I want to recognize Darryl Cooke and his company, Minds Over Nines, LLC, for the phenomenal work they are doing to pour positivity into Chicago’s youth while educating them on the dangers of firearms and the importance of gun violence prevention. They travel to cities across the U.S. and work with organizers to improve Black neighborhoods while spreading awareness about gun violence prevention.
One thing that gives me hope regarding where the gun violence prevention movement has been and where it is going in the future is the notable increase in public awareness about the impact of gun violence on communities. High-profile incidents, activism from organizations like Everytown for Gun Safety, and media coverage have brought attention to the urgent need for preventive measures. I am still aware that challenges persist and that the road to change may be complex. I think efforts to build consensus, engage stakeholders, and implement policies will help shape the future of the gun violence prevention movement.
Our work at Our 3 Memorial Foundation differs from other organizations for two reasons. The first is that each client-based service we provide is completely tailored to that client’s needs; we don’t utilize a general referral or service list because we know that domestic abuse can affect anyone, and it affects each person differently.
Additionally, while many organizations in our area focus mainly on survivor services, Our 3 Memorial Foundation has chosen to pair supporting survivors with community education. By hosting awareness events, we can educate attendees on the warning signs of domestic violence, how to handle tough situations, and available resources for survivors. These events help equip the community with the knowledge the people in it need to identify and safely escape domestic abuse situations.
The Everytown Survivor Network grant we received in 2022 provided our organization with the means to raise awareness surrounding the intersection of domestic violence and gun violence, as well as to assist survivors of domestic abuse who had faced the threat of being harmed with a firearm. The funds from the grant allowed us to provide over 50 survivors with crisis transportation and/or transitional housing assistance.
With the support of Everytown, we were also able to send out monthly mailings of Lautenberg Amendment notices to notify convicted domestic violence offenders that they may not possess a firearm or ammunition. This was especially critical because the courts in our state are not obligated to notify perpetrators or their parole or probation officers that the convicted domestic violence offender is prohibited from possessing a firearm or ammunition under federal law.
In October 2023, Our 3 Memorial Foundation proudly announced the launch of its groundbreaking initiative, the Love Songs Teen Dating Violence Program. This dynamic program combines the universal language of music with educational content to engage and educate middle- and high-school students about the importance of healthy relationships and the dangers of teen dating violence.
The Love Songs Teen Dating Violence Program aims to create a positive impact on Mississippi’s youth by utilizing the power of music coupled with thought-provoking conversations and interactive activities to connect with young minds and deliver key messages on healthy relationships. Thanks to our generous donors, this program is offered at no cost to participating youth organizations. We welcome youth organizations from across Mississippi to book a session for their youth groups.
Danielle Leveret-Gallaspy (she/her)
Danielle Leveret-Gallaspy is the founder and president of Our 3 Memorial Foundation, Inc.