Through shared experiences, the city of Rochester hopes to underscore the harrowing impact of violence and urge individuals to make better choices.
In concert with that approach, the Office of Violence Prevention Monday unveiled a new campaign designed to highlight resources and encourage people to get involved.
Titled “Choose Wisdom,” the campaign was created by the OVP and local filmmaker Shabaka Mu Ausar. These words and powerful images have popped up across Rochester, officials say.
The campaign tells stories of Rochesterians who have struggled with violence, drives home the importance of life choices, and boosts awareness of resources available via OVP.
“My team and I hear powerful stories every day, and we need to share their perspectives with people experiencing the same thing across the city,” says Victor Saunders, the city’s adviser on violence prevention. “Many people think they’re alone in their experiences, but they need to know that there are people who understand where they’re coming from, and that help is available.”
The communications effort also acknowledges the fact that there is “no public safety without the public.” It encourages a community-led effort to stop growing violence.
The campaign’s website showcases a three-minute film created by Mu Ausar. Known for his documentary “Young Black Male,” Mu Ausar is expected to continue working closely with Saunders and his team to capture and share additional voices, stories, and resources. The website will be updated on an ongoing basis.
“This campaign is designed to help people “Choose Wisdom”–and we want them to spread their own wisdom with the goal of preventing further violence in our neighborhoods,” Saunders says.
Mayor Malik Evans, who led the announcement, noted that while shootings and homicides have decreased since last year, he intends to keep the gun violence emergency in place. He pointed to car thefts as a growing problem, stressing the dangers of underage youth operating vehicles without any driving experience.
“We’re not here to celebrate or jump up and down. One shooting is too many,” Evans says, “but shootings and homicides are down.”
Around this time last year, he says, shootings totaled 163; this year, the number has dropped to 116. The number of individuals killed by gun violence is down by 45 percent.
According to the city, OVP’s resources include:
■ Pathways to Peace, a street outreach program that provides support and nonviolent alternatives for youth who are resorting to violence to settle disputes or becoming involved in gangs and drugs;
■ Reentry Program, which provides critical resources and services necessary to successfully navigate and transition from prison to a life of freedom;
■ Advance Peace – Peacemaker Fellowship, an urban gun violence disruption strategy that works to end cyclical and retaliatory gun violence by investing in the development, health and wellbeing of young people at the center of the violence crisis;
■ Rochester Peace Collective, a collaborative effort of 20 organizations that guides investments from local funders into innovative and proven programs that work to prevent violent crimes; and
■ The Office of Neighborhood Safety, which serves as a central hub to coordinate a communitywide violence reduction strategy that will guide public- and private-sector investments in social programs.
Smriti Jacob is Rochester Beacon managing editor. The Beacon welcomes comments and letters from readers who adhere to our comment policy including use of their full, real name. Submissions to the Letters page should be sent to [email protected].