We, that don’t have those scales, we have to speak loudly, we have to speak with a loud voice, a loud collaborative voice, because the power is not in just my loud voice. I have a loud voice – I’m a bad man by myself! But guess what? When we put the voices of all those who are here in this room, and we speak collectively, with the same message, they have to listen. So it’s about building coalitions. For Project Longevity, it’s about creating those coalitions, bringing more people to the process. And we just have to speak louder and more forceful and we have to hold our elected officials accountable because they are doing us a disservice by turning a blind eye.
Marginalized communities view themselves as under-valued, not listened to, ignored, and the key word I will use is “empowerment.” When you empower a community, when you link arms with them – and I’m not asking that you bring resources in – but when you help them to strengthen their voice, add to their narrative because those incidents are happening every day – but they’re viewed as not of value – we have to find a way to empower communities so they can right the wrongs for themselves.
In my community, I can only speak from my past experience. My past experience has always been, let us not wait for the cavalry to come. We are the cavalry! If we wait for the cavalry to come, most of us are going to be slaughtered. So we have to have some self-determination. And having groups link up with you, help you define your narrative, giving voice – or at least credence – to those communities that might be overlooked – “oh, they’re just black and brown, and this has been happening to them forever.” Like I said before, for those of us who don’t have scales on our eyes, and don’t have blinders on, it’s time for us – time for others – to lend a hand and become part of the process. You know, it’s always been said, “Either you’re part of the solution, or you’re part of the problem.” If we know this is happening and we just let it go on day after day, year after year, and we do nothing but sit by on the sidelines, are we doing anything to help the problem?
So, it’s building stronger coalitions, giving credence to under-served communities, helping to empower them so that they can empower themselves. Last thing I’ll say is one of the committees I work with is we have a group that’s made up of quite a few different disciplines from the Yale School of Medicine and the School of Management where we have been working for about seven years and building community cohesion in the aftermath of gun violence. So, you’ll notice naturally in communities where there is a natural disaster – whether it’s a flood, a snowstorm, a hurricane – communities have a way of being resilient on their own. An average New England snowstorm – you’re shoveling your walk, your neighbor’s out there and you help your neighbor and then you help the neighbor across the street – that’s community cohesion – the stronger we make communities cohesive. And for Project Longevity, we’re weaving a fabric where together we will save lives. The more people we bring into it, the stronger the fabric, the stronger the impact we’re going to have on the violence, especially violence prevention. Let’s not wait until it happens; let’s get ahead of it. So, it’s all those factors for marginalized communities, and I can’t speak enough on it.