FLINT, Michigan — The Flint Gun Violence Prevention Network (VPN), a group of 16 multi-sector organizations committed to eradicating gun violence, is learning to use a community-driven, public health approach to preventing gun violence in Genesee County.
For a year, a collective of Flint-area leaders and staff from the Community Foundation of Greater Flint took part in an exploratory network that also included The Cleveland Foundation, Ventura County Community Foundation, and the Kalamazoo Community Foundation. The first group of participants learned about best practices that were designed to support gun violence prevention in their respective communities.
Local participants in the group included Carma Lewis who is a Board member of the Community Foundation, Dr. Kenyetta Dotson who co-founded WOW Outreach
, and Moses Bingham who is the Community Foundation's Director of Special Projects and Initiatives.
Participants used local gun violence data, research, and other tools to learn methods of gun violence intervention and prevention. They also crafted a racial equity-based response strategy. Preparation content was developed in partnership with Reginald Moore, Director of Violence Prevention Policy and Engagement for the Medical College of Wisconsin’s Comprehensive Injury Center. Flint’s VPN has engaged the community in its efforts by inviting Moore to present a lecture on community safety and violence prevention.
The community-driven approach is lauded by many across the country as an effective method of prevention. The approach focuses on community members who are most at risk of being a victim or a perpetrator of gun violence while addressing the needs of communities that experience trauma, disinvestment, and systemic racism.
Moses Bingham says the VPN is working with, Seamus Bannon, Program Director of Flint's Community-Based Violence Intervention and Prevention Initiative, to develop a blueprint for gun violence prevention. Listening circles are being planned for areas of the city that experience heightened gun violence according to the data. “We plan to work collaboratively with [the VPN] and others who care about seeing change in our community,” said Bingham.
Dr. Kenyetta Dotson’s community outreach organization has worked in North Flint for more than 20 years. Each year, it hosts a Unity March to bring community members together to speak out against gun violence and support people who have lost relatives and friends to gun violence. This year’s event will be hosted by St. Mary’s on Flint’s eastside.
VPN submitted its findings to the city of Flint and their work was used to support the city’s successful application for a $1.5 million grant from the Department of Justice. Yet, Bingham says the group still has more work to do. “We have a long road ahead, but we are committed to working with the community, municipalities, and organizations to bring greater peace and change to our community for the better.”
For more information about the Flint Gun Violence Prevention Network, visit: cfgf.org
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