Stand Against Violence East Harlem, or SAVE, is an organization whose mission is to treat violence as a disease and work to spread a cure for violence by changing the community norms. The SAVE model consists of three steps:
Step 1 is to identify and detect the problems, the high risk individuals
Step 2 is to interrupt the transmission by working with these individuals
Step 3 is to create change in the community
SAVE’s Program Manager, Omar Jackson, and Outreach Worker Supervisor, Javon Alexander, sat down with GOSO to talk about what SAVE can do for the community and what it’s given them both.
GOSO: What is SAVE?
Omar: “SAVE is a crisis management center. We are trained credible messengers from the community that work in the community with high risk individuals, male and female. A high risk individual may be someone who has been shot, someone in a gang, someone coming home from prison, someone who has shot someone, or somebody that has a large influence on other individuals in the community. We work with these individuals and try to get them to change their mindset. How? By working with them individually, in a group setting, mentoring them, or just talking. We also offer resources. That’s where GOSO comes into play. We refer a lot of these individuals to GOSO, which has services like OSHA and security training, GED education, etc.”
Javon: “We are trying to provide the right tools. If you grow up, and I give you a camera, the likelihood of you becoming a photographer is high, because that’s what you know. If I give you a plunger, you’re probably going to be a plumber. We just want to provide the right tools to these kids. Job resources, paid internships, trainings. We want to show them that there are other alternatives, other than what they’ve seen.”
GOSO: What contributes to violence in a community?
Omar: A lot of the violence stems from finances. In East Harlem, we have a lot of middle class families who are struggling financially. This can lead to aggravation, which can lead to crime, whether it’s drug dealing, robbery, stealing, which can then lead to violence. We need to get people to see that you don’t have to stand on this corner doing this…you can actually be working, and make the same amount of money and sleep well at night. If we get enough people to change their mindset, now we have a better community.
When we were younger, what we saw were drug dealers. So like Javon said, if you’re handed a plunger you’ll become a plumber. Well, we were handed drugs, and so we started selling drugs. These kids today are being handed guns and being introduced to gangs and crews, at such an early age. That is what they know and learn. So we feel like if we can reach one – mission accomplished, because this one could bring another one. With a disease, it spreads, we are trying to spread the cure.”
GOSO: What are your personal aspirations for SAVE?
Omar: “We were once part of the problem in our community. I was incarcerated from 2009-2010, and after that I knew I had to change. I’m a huge family man, so when I’m away from my kids, that doesn’t just hurt me, it hurts them. Becoming a part of SAVE was part of my change. Here I am today, the program manager of an organization, working in a community where I once was part of the problem. Javon and I are both credible messengers, because everyone in the community knows us and the damage that we brought to the community. So to know that we are actually a part of the solution now, that speaks volumes. They know – if these dudes can change, others can too. There’s hope. I have three young boys…do we want our young kings to come up the way we did? To fall victim to senseless violence? All of this inspired me to want to be involved with SAVE.
Our community is dealing with a lot. There are a lot of issues that go unnoticed – from mental health issues, trauma that people have never sought help for, families that are dealing with grief. People don’t seek help for these issues. There is a lot of pride, and people don’t admit that they have a problem. You have to look inside yourself and think ‘maybe I am a part of the problem.’”
Javon: “We want to change the community that we came from. We want opportunities. We live in communities where the schools are terrible and the jobs are limited. These circumstances breed violence. We are trying to change those circumstances, and provide resources to these young kids so that they can become better. We are trying to change these young kids’ vision. I want SAVE to be a symbol of change. This is an opportunity for change. We’re living it – we changed.”