The Islandview community sets an ambitious goal to usher in gun safety through collaboration, partnerships and policy.
A week before the Silence the Violence March took place at the end of June, Pastor Barry Randolph received an email from Jared Krupnick of the group, Action for Gun Safety, in regard to learning more about the work the Church of the Messiah was doing around gun safety through the march and other ventures.
This email exchange led to several phone calls and eventually an invitation to the march to see the work in person. Jared accepted and booked a flight to Detroit. His plans were to see the work of Islandview up close and determine if he could use his connections to do more.
Krupnick is from South Florida mere miles from the Parkland, where the Stoneman Douglas shooting took place, so his connection to and investment in gun safety is ever present. Having taken pictures, recorded videos and organized around the efforts of advocacy groups like March for Our Lives, Road to Change, Every Town for Gun Safety, Moms Demand Action and Giffords, Krupnick is dedicated to ending gun violence nationwide through research and collaboration.
Within the context of Detroit’s long history as one of the most dangerous cities in the United States, the plan was to establish a new national narrative to highlight the proven, effective efforts by the Church of the Messiah and its partners to reduce gun violence by addressing the root causes of crime and violence, such as poverty, joblessness and housing insecurity.
With the success of the march and the attention it garnered behind them, conversations started on what needed to happen next. At July’s monthly stakeholder meeting, 5 Alive (which is held on the first Monday of every month at the Church of the Messiah), Krupnick, Barry and a community of representatives and neighbors alike gathered to discuss the future of Detroit. Krupnick shared his proposal, which had already been discussed and approved by Pastors Barry and Wally Gilbert, and then extended his stay in Detroit to see the vision through.
The plan was simple. There is an opportunity, because of the once-in-a-generation level of national attention that will be on the city for the Democratic presidential candidate debates, to make a transformational shift by defining the specific narrative for the city, creating individual and organizational roles in the narrative and building a team demonstrating the leadership required to manifest the narrative.
All of the Democratic candidates will be in Detroit for the debates at the Fox Theatre on July 30 and 31. Armed with this kind of media attention, the group aims to create the biggest media-covered event in Detroit on the days of the debates featuring prominent state and local community leaders, survivors and victims’ families, as well as influential national gun safety advocates, artists and organizations.
Myya Jones, organizer of the Silence the Violence March, made a heartfelt plea during the most recent 5 Alive meeting that the community’s buy-in for this new idea felt like a slap in the face given the volunteers, money and resources she needed for her event, which was largely funded from her own pockets. “I asked for help for weeks and few if any came through,” she said. Though disheartened by the resources that was to be expended on this seemingly similar event, she still vowed to work in concert with the team to bring about the end goal of gun safety nationally with Detroit being the focus now.
Pastor Barry acknowledged Myya’s comment at the meeting and assured her that this is the next step in the work that the march was created to do. He then assembled his Avengers in a meeting to chart out the next steps. This team included: Oviedo Irons, Belinda Gilmore, Tinesha Flowers (of Detroit Action Commonwealth), Vernita Glenn, Cynthia F. Butler and myself.
Grabbing people he knew would serve and contribute, Barry mobilized a Messiah Action Team (MAT), who over the coming weeks would be calling and meeting with local organizations focused on ending gun violence and bringing them into the fold so that the next move would be bigger, louder and more powerful than their individual efforts.
To date, Krupnick and the Messiah Action Team have met with DeMarcus Taylor from M.A.D. (Making a Difference), Dave Lawrence from Save Our Children’s Future), Barry Ross from Mixing It Up (TV 33), Alia Harvey-Quinn from Force Detroit and The Detroit Interfaith Outreach Network (DION) to talk about partnering on gun safety and the huge impact having a united force would have.
With questions like – What is your vision for the community? What would you like to see accomplished in the community? What would you like to accomplish as a team? What would you like to personally accomplish? What are your skill sets? What do you want your roles and responsibilities to be on the team? – Krupnick aims to obtain commitments from the individual and collective hearts of the people and organizations behind this crucial work.
Once the commitments have been secured, the next event is a Town Hall scheduled for Wednesday, July 24 from 6-8 p.m. at the Church of the Messiah (on East Grand Blvd. near the Belle Isle Bridge), where community members will be encouraged to express their concerns about gun violence in Detroit and a panel of community activists and organizers will share a range of initiatives and efforts designed to address long-standing concerns. The event is free and open to the public.
“We have the opportunity of a lifetime in front of us if we choose to see it that way. Let’s seize it and make the most of it,” urges Krupnick. With the backing and support of the Church of the Messiah, Detroit is positioned to make big waves nationally for its concern and response to the gun violence plaguing the country.
For more information on the event and how you can participate or donate, contact Rev. Barry Randolph at the Church of the Messiah (231 E. Grand Blvd., Detroit, MI 48207) by calling (313) 633-5331.