"I never thought I would be the one educating people and telling them about how to end gun violence. I never thought it would be me." Dieynaba Sy, Youth Organizer 2011-212
Those are the words of one of this year's 2011-2012 YO S.O.S graduates. This past Thursday, Crown Heights celebrated the (one) year of work the teenagers of Youth Organizing to Save Our Streets (YO S.O.S) by crowning them with an exquisite graduation ceremony. Located in a community event space, fit with a backyard with tiki lamps, and an indoor space perfect for royal celebration, along with tasty foods, our crowning of the youth organizers was ready to go down in Crown Heights history.
The Crown Heights Mediation Center celebrated the graduation of 19 youth organizers of YO S.O.S for their year of work in organizing and strategizing ways to inform and educate their community of peers about the epidemic crisis of gun violence. After marching these teens all over the city and even upstate New York, they were deserving of celebration and recognition. AmeriCorps Program Assistant, Radel Clause, was the night's master of ceremonies and had the audience of about 60 in tears of laughter.
Youth Organizers, Veronica Gonzalez, Shakeel Howell, Nickeisha Gaynor and Reean Charles gave heartwarming speeches and poems about how much YO SOS has helped them as individuals in their personal growth. Veronica spoke about witnessing a shootout prior to YO S.O.S. and being proud that she was able to be apart of a group of people that are working to end gun violence in her community. She was followed by a jaw-dropping performance poem by youth organizer, Nickeisha Gaynor.
Our keynote address was delivered by Crown Heights' own royal figure, Queen Ife Charles, (she might not like this) Deputy Project Director of the Crown Heights Mediation Center. A special honor was given to Save Our Streets (S.O.S) Violence Interrupter, Rudy Suggs,to whom twin youth organizers, Shanice & Shyan James expressed, "would have never heard about YO SOS if it wasn't for Rudy."
Of course, we have dozens of pictures on our facebook page, but we are give only going you all a taste of our Crowning ceremony in this email to entice you. Special thanks to Amy Ellenbogen, Ife Charles, Al Siegel, Eliana Horn, Anthony Mohen, Lizzie Dewan, Derick Scott, David Bookhart, Allen James, Patsy Foley, Ruby-Beth Buitekant, Jonelli Gordon, Achisimach Yisrael, and Radel Clause.
See all the pictures from the event on our Facebook page.