By Tracie Isaac
Since 2015, June has been recognized as the official National Gun Violence Awareness Month.
Gun Violence Awareness Month is a month-long, statewide campaign to raise awareness on the severe impact of gun violence on our communities while promoting conversation and action, according to the Gun Violence Awareness Month NY (GVAMNY) website.
Year 2022 now holds a historical significance during this Gun Violence Awareness Month, following recent high-profile shootings in Buffalo, Uvalde, Laguna Woods and New York City.
Several NY city mayors kicked off “Gun Violence Awareness Month” by joining in a state-wide virtual conference on May 31 hosted by the GVAM New York organization with a panel of mayors from cities with high ranking gun violence incidents.
“Gun Violence Awareness month is an opportunity for all of us to recognize the pain and suffering gun violence has brought upon our communities, state and nation,” said Buffalo Mayor Byron Brown, who served as moderator. “It is also a chance to amplify the stories of survivors and victims, the work of leaders and organizations, and most importantly the solutions that can help drive gun violence out of our communities.”
Joining Mayor Brown was Rochester Mayor Malik Evans, NYC Mayor Eric Adams, Mayor Shawyn Patterson-Howard of Mount Vernon), Albany Mayor Kathy Sheehan, Mayor Wilfred Rosas of Dunkirk, and Niagara Falls Mayor Robert Restaino.
Other guests included anti-gun violence advocates K. Bain, founder and executive director of Community Capacity Development, Pastor of Buffalo AME Church, Reverend Paul Thomas and more.
“Orange” is the new black to be worn during June to represent gun violence prevention. In January of 2013, the color was introduced to honor the life of 16-year old Hadiya Pendelton, who was shot and killed in a Chicago playground. Hadiya’s friends gathered together a few weeks later and commemorated her life by wearing the color orange, the color worn by hunters to protect their lives and others while in the woods.
June 2, 2015 marked Hadiya’s 18th birthday and became recognized nationally as “Wear Orange” day with thousands following the concept to honor Hadiya and other lives lost or injured due to gun violence.
Many NY cities participated in“Light the Landmarks” visibly acknowledging gun violence month by lighting key government and private buildings in the color orange.
“Gun violence is a national crisis… We are raising the consciousness of gun violence awareness… It is not a coincidence that we see the same challenges in Buffalo, Brookly and Boston and other places where violence is occurring in places where food apartheid, health disparities, public education system,” said K. Bain, Founder and Executive Director of Community Capacity Development. The human justice and healing organization addresses gun violence in three levels: community mobilization and empowerment, system change and individual transformation.
Bain said the three levels must happen simultaneously in order to have a transformational effect in communities.
“I think what has to happen is a reinvestment in communities. We have to look at gun safety as a by-product of marginalization and disenfranchisement,” said Bain.
Locally, the Mayor’s office, specifically, the Violence Prevention Program has collaborated with the RCSD due to young people experiencing trauma, launching the Rochester Peace Collective to work to encourage young people to do positive things before getting involved with gun violence.
Evans said the community needs to come together in this fight against gun violence. “The incident in Buffalo represents a cross section of America… We owe it to the survivors, to not let our despair paralyze us but move into action,” he said.
“It is a crying shame that today in America we continue to see gun violence across the spectrum. It is a punctuation point when we see that it is sometimes driven by hate and racism that causes predominantly African Americans their lives. I hope that we can come up with sensible legislation to get guns out of the hands of people who should not have them.”
Evans also shared statistics on gun violence activity, he said in 2020 more Americans died of gun related injuries than any other year on record amounting to 45,222 deaths according to the CDC in one year. There were 61 shooter incidents that killed 103 and wounded 140 in 2020, 243 active shooter incidents resulting in a 50% increase from the previous year and a 96.8% increase from 2017.
“We have to keep speaking up and demanding action,” Evans said.
“When there is a hurricane or natural disaster FEMA comes in and there is a whole community effort to solve the natural disaster. Gun violence should be no different. Every level of government and every organization needs to come together to try and do what we can to stop this carnage that we continue to see in our country and our cities.”
Organizations and anti-gun violence activists all across the country have joined the nationwide movement to address gun violence. For more information and to participate in the national Gun Violence Awareness events and social media visit gunviolenceawarenessmonth.com. The entire program discussion can be viewed at www.gunviolenceawarenessmonthny.com/blog.
“Gun violence is not just a Buffalo or New York State issue, it is a national crisis,” said Mayor Brown