White House Says: Credible Messengers a Must

Posted: August 19, 2021

YA! ED on White House Panel –

Youth ALIVE! is Oakland’s homegrown agency for violence prevention, intervention and healing. But we also have a national reputation and three decades of invaluable experience in our community. And we love to share our expertise with other agencies and cities. Recently, the White House called.

This week, Youth ALIVE! Executive Director Anne Marks was a featured panelist at a White House Community Violence Intervention National Webinar. The panel of Anne, Ray Winans from Detroit’s DLIVE and Fatima Loren Dreier of The HAVI, emphasized to burgeoning programs the essential need to seek out people from their communities to help bring healing and safety to their own neighborhoods struggling with violence.

“Start with credible messengers,” said Anne, “indigenous healers, people already in the community who are called to this work.” Every city has people who, among members of a traumatized community, can establish relationships, gain trust, and demonstrate a deep, experiential understanding of the plight of those affected by daily violence. Anne advised listeners to ask themselves, Who are the leaders in my community?

We have many community leaders in Oakland and at Youth ALIVE!

”Sherman Spears (who created Youth ALIVE!’s hospital-based violence intervention program – the nation’s first HVIP) was called to this work,” she said. “And we were lucky to know Marilyn Washington Harris (founder of Youth ALIVE!’s Khadafy Washington Project, which supports families of homicide victims, after whose murdered son the program is named). Marilyn is an example of personal experiences that drive people to do this work.”

DLIVE’s Ray Winan emphasized the helpful buy-in of civic leaders like the Mayor of Detroit, who has been supportive of DLIVE’s work. He also told a very illuminating story. Detroit violence interrupters were working to mediate a conflict, but couldn’t get anywhere, even though they had a victim and a perpetrator meeting. Then the parties’ moms stepped into the mediation. With maternal authority they laid out what they wanted to see happen, what they expected of their sons. In particular, the mother of the victim insisted the perpetrator quit drinking and drugs. He has been clean for going on two years now.

Listen to CVI in Practice webinar, part of the White House series on Community Violence Intervention.