For his tireless efforts to curb violence and to improve the lives of Pittsburgh youth through his Children/Adult Recreational and Educational Services, the Center that C.A.R.E.S., Rev. Glenn Grayson, pastor at Wesley Center AMEZ on Centre Avenue, in the Hill District, has been named by President Obama as one of this year’s Champions of Change and will be honored at the White House April 3.
Since its inception, C.A.R.E.S. has provided educational services and cultural activities to children, youth and young adults year-round. Starting with just six students in 2000, it serves more than 250 students year-round, as of 2012. The center’s new home, the former Ozanam Cultural Center, has been renamed in memory of Rev. Grayson’s son, Jeron, who was killed by random gun violence while attending a party at California University of Pennsylvania in 2010.
“Can you imagine it? God is up to something,” Rev. Grayson said. “I was one of nine people selected out of 400 nominees. It’s just surreal. I’m ecstatic, it’s a great honored. This is a whole different world,”
Reverend Grayson learned of the honor just in time to be honored locally by the League of Women Voters, again for his contributions toward ending violence and improving lives.
I didn’t mention it because I didn’t want to over shadow their great event, we actually got two awards there; one for me and one for the Center that CARES,” he said.
Also honored with Grayson last night for their contributions to stemming violence were:
d three individuals for their work to stop gun violence:
•Buhl Foundation President Fred Thieman, who, as former US Attorney for the Western District of Pennsylvania helped form the Youth Crime Prevention Council that shaped community-wide strategies to prevent violence, and
•Tim Stevens, founder of the Black Political Empowerment Project (B-PEP) who prompted creation of the Coalition Against Violence project.
The awards dinner also served, fittingly as an opportunity for the LWV to release the recommendations from its Gun Safety Forum. The February discussions among about 150 people at the Kingsley Association a list of recommendations to increase gun safety and reduce gun violence.
Vice President for Development Naragon said they were compiled from surveys completed after intensive discussions led by panelists, and were somewhat surprising.
“We expected a lot of people to say ‘just get rid of the guns’ but that’s not all we heard,” she said. “They aren’t focusing on guns, but on people and how to make communities safer. What they really want is support for community-led initiatives, and that’s something we should be able to do.”
Community-led initiatives have to start with individuals, attendees agreed. Individuals hand families, they said, have the primary responsibility for teaching gun safety and for addressing gun-related injuries and death.
So the first recommendation to increase funding for such initiatives, from public, private and foundation sources. They should focus on mental health-suicide link as well, said Naragon, as a startling number of gun deaths are suicides that may have been prevented if guns had not been readily available.
Secondly more funding should be allocated to address violence from a public health standpoint. It should assist in looking at the root causes of violence and focus on violent criminals and illegal gun trafficking.
Funding should also go to fund community-level organizations like block watches to promoted gun safety and education, and reduce violence.
“Another thing people sad they wanted is a different relationship with police,” she said. “They want them out of the cars and walking the streets, meeting people, so they can establish something other than this antagonistic relationship we have now.”
Naragon also recommends that most of these initiatives should be funded through tax revenue rather than government grants.
“A lot of this work has been led by charismatic leaders in the past, who can rally support and funds. But when they go, so does the support,” she said. “We need something that multiple communities can draw on, that doesn’t depend on who they mayor is or who’s in council. I think tax money is the only way to do that.”
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