While June marks Gun Violence Prevention month, No Slide Zone and community leaders are working year-round to end gun violence in the nation’s capital. (Courtesy Photo)

By Micha Green
AFRO D.C. and Digital Editor
mgreen@afro.com

June marks Gun Violence Prevention month and the wear orange campaign, but there are Washingtonians working year-round to put an end to the gun violence plaguing the nation’s capital, such as Director of Gun Violence Prevention Linda Harlee-Harper and organizations such as No Slide Zone.  Even with the intentional work, as Director Harlee-Harper said at a press conference on June 7, there’s “more to do,” because there have been, according to D.C. Witness, 98 homicides in the District of Columbia this year, 21 more lives lost to violence than this time in 2020.  With Gun Violence Prevention month in full effect, organizations such as No Slide Zone, are holding events to encourage Washingtonians to stop the violence and D.C. Mayor Muriel Bowser announced a  $59 million investment to assist community efforts in ending shootings in the nation’s capital.

“We are here today to talk about what it looks like to have a whole of government approach to reducing gun violence and making our neighborhoods safer and how that looks in a D.C. budget. This is what a $59 million investment in Building Blocks DC in safety and D.C. Youth will look like.  Our Building Blocks investments are about stopping gun violence before it happens.  We don’t want people out on our streets involved in gun play.  We want them focusing on jobs, and school, enjoying life and living long lives with their family and friends.  And we know that is what every resident wants too,” Bowser said at a press conference at Douglass Community Center in Southeast, D.C. on June 7.

As part of the $59 million investment, Mayor Bowser said $11 million will go towards returning citizens; $5.6 million will be to create “110 dedicated employment opportunities at DPW for residents at risk of gun violence;” $2.2 million will be for “temporary safe housing for residents involved in gun violence;” and nearly $800,000 to keep recreation centers open later “so people have safe places to hang out and be with their friends.”

The Mayor explained that while the entire D.C. government is invested in ending gun violence, they must collaborate with the community in order for effective programs and prevention.

“When we say, ‘whole of government,’ what we actually mean is whole of community and government.  We all know the government can do a lot of things, and we can do a lot of things well, but we won’t solve gun violence without each other.  We have to rely on each other to call out, and find and identify and connect with people who need help the most,” Bowser said.  

“So we will also have $1.5 million in grants that will go to individuals and organizations that are taking their own initiatives to stop gun violence in their own neighborhoods and engage neighbors that need help,” the Mayor announced. 

Community organizations such as No Slide Zone, are working directly with the community to end gun violence.  No Slide Zone regularly releases videos on social media with youth and people from all generations speaking on the fears, concerns and realities of gun violence in the community.  

No Slide Zone also hosts events and collaborates with other activists and demonstrations to emphasize the importance of people not “sliding” into communities and shooting their guns- often arbitrarily affecting innocent bystanders- and ending the lives of many over petty conflict and disputes.

No Slide Zone collaborated with “End Gun Violence Conference” on June 1, then Fit D.C. on Black Lives Matter Plaza on June 5, and ended the weekend with a “No Slide Zone Float Celebration,” featuring Go Go Band T.O.B., who played live, as the float made its way from Hechinger Mall in Northeast to Savanna Avenue in Southeast.

Through the investment in community organizations and individuals, who are often fundraising and coming out of pocket to personally work to prevent gun violence in their community, Bowser and Director Harlee-Harper hope to make a real difference.

“I have spent the last few months listening and talking to residents and hearing communities about what we need best,” Harlee-Harper said at the community center on June 5. 

“We want to change hearts and minds and offer alternative options,” the Director of Gun Violence Prevention added.

“The FY-22 budget reflects a continued, historical investment in this area of gun violence prevention and intervention, which will allow for increased staffing and capacity for existing providers, while also offering the opportunity to launch new and innovative programming and service delivery,” Harlee-Harper said.

“We are announcing the funding availability of community grants in order to encourage and prepare the community to apply. We are releasing $750,000 in mini grants and RFAs.  So many people have to come with these amazing ideas… and this is an opportunity to get support for these grants,” the Director of Gun Violence Prevention said excitedly.  

Harlee-Harper explained the mini grants are up to $5,000 and applications, which are still for FY-21, open June 14 and will be accepted on a rolling basis until September or when funding runs out. RFA grants are worth up to $50,000. 

The Director said Building Blocks’ neighborhood action plans have also been created to address individual communities— newly entering Kenilworth and Mayfair.

With so many individuals and organizations seeking to stop the violence, Harlee-Harper explained that Building Blocks’ role is to support community organizations already doing the work.

Further, Bowser and Harlee-Harper took to social media to show off the Building Blocks EOC (emergency operation center).

“ is a gun violence prevention emergency operation center that’s the first of its kind in the world. What we’re doing is merging emergency management with social service delivery and we’re going to be working together collectively to set this up to be a great comprehensive response to gun violence prevention,” Harlee-Harper saId in a video posted on Twitter.

 

Micha Green

AFRO Washington, D.C. Editor