Just days before Wear Orange Weekend 2021, Amnesty International USA (AIUSA) today announced the launch of the Heroes Campaign, a national advocacy effort to secure critical federal funding for community violence intervention programs. The campaign is AIUSA’s latest effort to bring attention to and to end gun violence that disproportionately affects Black and brown communities throughout the country.
The campaign kicks off with a virtual live panel discussion at 7:00 PM EST and features six leaders from grassroots violence prevention groups, “heroes” who work tirelessly on the front lines to save lives in their communities. These heroes will discuss how local organizations’ leaders continue to fight the erasure of Black and brown youth from the national conversation, and how proper funding from lawmakers can help curb violence in the most affected communities.
“We are thrilled to launch this new Heroes campaign just in time for National Gun Violence Awareness Day and Wear Orange Weekend,” said Ernest Coverson, Amnesty International USA’s End Gun Violence Campaign Manager. “For so long, leaders and volunteers of local violence prevention organizations have continually put their lives on the line to protect entire neighborhoods from the devastation and trauma of gun violence. They should be celebrated. Their names should be known. With few resources, perseverance and imagination, these leaders have shown us what’s possible when it comes to keeping children and people of color safe. This Wear Orange weekend we call on our lawmakers to provide these heroes with the resources they need to end gun violence in the United States once and for all.”
Research, including by Amnesty International USA, shows that evidence-based violence intervention programs, tailored to specific local contexts, working in partnership with affected communities can greatly reduce gun violence. These programs provide holistic approaches to tackle underlying causes of violence, including hunger, homelessness, and unemployment. However, despite providing frontline assistance and community care, most of these programs remain grossly under-funded.
“There is no rhyme or reason to gun violence,” said Mar’yum Patterson, Hospital Trauma Liaison, Cleveland Peacemakers Alliance. “It is not always targeted. It can happen to anyone, anywhere, at any time. Everyone wants data and numbers, yet they cut funding. No one wants to deal with it.”
“We fund police, but we don’t fund gun violence prevention programs and the heroes that run them,” said Coverson. “We should be investing in communities and the programs that help them live better, safer lives. We spend over a hundred billion dollars a year on policing in the United States, yet gun violence is worse than ever. Meanwhile violence interrupters are often working for less than a living wage, and doing side gigs to get by.”
Working in collaboration with the “Invest In Us” coalition, AIUSA has called on Congress and the Biden Administration to authorize $5 billion in federal funds over the next eight years in investments for effective, community violence intervention programs working to protect youth and communities of color. AIUSA is targeting online actions and phone calls to Members of Congress urging the reintroduction and passage of the Break the Cycle of Violence Act, which would provide the stated request of $5 Billion dollars for community violence prevention organizations.
National Gun Violence Awareness Day, June 4, is part of Wear Orange Weekend, a time dedicated to honoring the lives of those most affected by gun violence and the advocates who continue to fight for an end to this uniquely American crisis.
“We need a nationwide effort to prevent gun violence through youth development. Right now, youth get development only when they get arrested, and it’s not right. We need a radical transformation.”
Founder and Director
“Local intervention programs like BRAVE save lives. It gives kids in the inner city a platform and humanizes them. Gun violence is inherently tied to human rights, because as a human being you deserve respect and to be seen. Anything that creates trauma, abuse and inequity is a human rights issue — and gun violence does that. It touches everyone.”
Violence Prevention Coordinator
“This is something that affects everyone. Whether you live in a gated community or in our neighborhoods, gun violence is going to impact your life.”
Hospital Trauma Liaison
My commitment to this work is not about who I work for. I want to see change and sustainability… For me, this work is way more personal than it ever was before. Now is the time to confront difficult situations. The work is not about me. I’m trying to save lives.”
Director of Community Partnerships and Safety