2020 Thought Leadership Series: Ending Systemic Violence Through Economic Opportunity

March 9, 2020

Milestones in life like graduating from college, landing a first big promotion, or walking down the aisle on a wedding day can define the course of our lives. They create memories that give us confidence in ourselves and our society. In contrast, for too many in our region, the memories shaping lives are ones of violent crime. 

On February 25, we brought together regional leaders for the second session of our 2020 Thought Leadership Series: Ending Systemic Violence Through Economic Opportunity. The goal? To advance the role of leaders in creating change in the DC region. 

The day began with an introduction from Mark Bergel (’16) the Founder, President & CEO of A Wider Circle, our partner in the series. Bergel reminded us of the urgent need for leaders to take action, “since our first session just 30 days ago, there have been 339 violent crimes in DC alone, 72 shootings, 12 of which ended in death.” In 2019, DC lost 166 people to homicide, which was the highest murder rate in a decade. So far this year, the city is on pace to surpass that number. 

Stories of the murders of Malachi Lukes and Maurice Scott are grave reminders that we have a lot of work to do to reverse the devastating impact of systemic violence on our community. The series looks at ways business leaders can create opportunities and support initiatives to remove people from the persistent threat of violence through economic opportunity. 

For the opening session back in January, we were joined by Jimmie Jenkins of ManpowerDC. Jenkins is a violence interrupter and community activist whose 14-year-old brother was left paralyzed in a 2018 shooting. Jenkins was the basketball coach for Maurice Jones, an honor student and basketball star gunned down in 2019. Currently, Jenkins serves as the Ward 8 Manager of the NAARC Cure The Streets Program, which uses public-health strategies to stop the spread of violence through direct interventions. Jenkins shared his story and call for support. Jimmie's mother also shared the impact on her and what she is doing to help others who have experienced trauma. 

For the February session, we looked to the City of Chicago to gain insight into strategies to reduce systemic violence in our community. We were joined by staff members from the Institute for Nonviolence Chicago; Chris Patterson, Senior Director of Programs and Policy and Tara Dabney, Director of Development and Communications. 

Patterson shared his story of growing up in the Cabrini-Green housing projects in Chicago, where examples of success were mainly drug dealers. “When I was growing up and in school, they said 'you can be anything you want to be', but I had never seen what anything I wanted to be meant.” Patterson extricated himself from a life of crime after serving time in prison. He now leads the charge to help others escape the trap of gang life.

“People have value, it doesn’t matter where they come from. We are pushing the economic component. The reality is that we can change the narrative together. When we hear that someone shot somebody, we need to be thinking deeply about what happened to them along the way," said Patterson.

One of the main ways the Institute for Nonviolence Alliance Chicago prevents violence is through direct intervention, gathering members of the community to intervene when grief is high and retaliation is imminent. 

As we spotlight violence prevention programs and meet with leaders who are responding to the sources of violent crime, we are deepening our knowledge of how to lead our community toward greater peace and how best to advocate. The next several sessions will move participants from education on the issues to action. 

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2020 Thought Leadership Series: Ending Systemic Violence Through Economic Opportunity