As you support organizations this giving season, we hope that you will keep GOSO in mind. It is because of people like you that GOSO can sustain our critical work to provide services to our participants like Dashawn. Please take a few minutes to read his story and make a donation to GOSO as we prepare for 2021.
The justice system criminalizes poverty — favoring people who can afford bail and lawyers and punishing those who can’t with incarceration. Starting during his teenage years, Dashawn felt this injustice when he was racially profiled by police and involved unfairly in the justice system. “I didn’t have money for a top-notch lawyer who could prove my innocence. I was forced to take a plea bargain, or risk going to trial and end up serving an even longer sentence, risking more years lost, away from my friends and family.”
In 2014, Dashawn discovered GOSO while completing a year long sentence on Rikers Island and the program made him feel hopeful about what he could achieve when he returned home. Once back home, he received support from GOSO in many forms — mental health counseling, job readiness training, and help furthering his education. His first job was as a baker’s assistant through our GOSOWorks employment program and also enrolled in college to study criminal justice. Recently, Dashawn is pursuing his associate’s degree in audio production online through the Los Angeles Film School, hoping to explore his passion to work in TV or music.
Dashawn is charting a new path forward, which made him a perfect candidate to join our SAVE Cure Violence team. When the pandemic hit, he was hired as a SAVE Social Distancing Diplomat and is now a credible messenger in his community. “I know I’m having an impact because I go out every day and I don’t judge anyone. I provide face masks, hand sanitizer, and other resources to anyone in need. They can see that there is no discrimination and that we’re genuinely here to help.”
For Dashawn, SAVE’s mission is personal with losing a close family member to gun violence. “We all have family; everyone is affected. It can happen to anyone and that just isn’t acceptable. There is too much violence happening in our communities. To be a voice and say that I’m against it is a big deal.”
Our SAVE team works to end gun violence in the East Harlem community by providing resources, mediation, and positive alternatives to gun violence: “SAVE is a movement. We try to get to the root of the problem. We come from an angle of empathy so that people feel understood. We want our neighbors to feel comfortable to come to us and know we’ll listen. Many people don’t feel comfortable talking to police about these issues because police don’t have that same level of understanding.”
Dashawn hopes that communities like where he grew up in the Bronx and Harlem can have more educational resources, opportunities, and more recreational activities — more places like GOSO and SAVE. “GOSO recognizes us. A lot of people I know don’t get that recognition in the neighborhoods we come from. Even when we’ve tried to break a cycle, no one is there to just say, ‘Hey, you’re doing good.’ I can count on GOSO to say what I’m doing is important. They say, ‘We’re always here to help, if you need it. You might not use it, but just know it’s there.’ That’s the best part.”
Our goal at GOSO is to have more success stories like this as we enter into 2021 — please give today and invest in Justice Transformation.