Will Violence Interrupters be the Answer?
Accepting Challenges To Improve Our Nation – that is precisely what A.C.T.I.O.N. CDC stands for in both name and mission.
The 501(c)3 organization is dedicated to assisting families and individuals out of poverty and helping construct affordable housing to improve the lives of low-and-moderate-income families and individuals within the Houston, Texas community.
A.C.T.I.O.N. CDC was founded in March 2000 by Dr. Abdul Haleem Muhammad, who has served on Houston Mayor Sylvester Turner’s Anti-Gun Violence Commission as Chairman of Community-Based Prevention, Intervention & Reintegration. Dr. Abdul Haleem Muhammad is also the creator of United In Peace Houston, A.C.T.I.O.N. CDC’s organizing arm that challenges Houston communities to come together to bring an end to the violence manifesting its way throughout the 77004, 77021, 77033, and 77051 zip codes.
United In Peace has two hugely successful programs that operate with one realistic goal: reduce gun-related homicides, injuries, and robberies along the Scott Street corridor by 75% over the next four years.
To achieve this ambitious goal, United In Peace established the Scott Street Peace Initiative Strategic Plan that has seven priorities at its epicenter:
- Street organization conflict intervention
- Establishing safe spaces for conflict resolution and training
- Economic development
- Rehabilitating street organization members
- Preventing youth involvement in street organizations
- Promoting peacemaking and community building arts and culture
- Enhancing public safety
“We use the words ‘street organizations’ purposefully because these neighborhood cliques are highly organized. These young brothers and young sisters are brilliant. That’s how we know that there is a light in the tunnel rather than at the end of the tunnel. We are meeting them where they are. They just need to know there is another way,” said Brother Eric Muhammad, Executive Director at A.C.T.I.O.N. CDC.
United In Peace also organizes the Houston Peace Rides Against Gun Violence with various other organizations to promote peace in the community, regardless of ethnic background, gender, or neighborhood affiliation.
“We’re breaking down barriers when we do the peace rides and different activities that bring the neighborhoods together. They get to see each other as neighbors rather than enemies or rivals. We are striving to put the 'Neighbor back in the Hood!’ That is key in helping to curtail the violence because you don’t want to fight against your brother or cousin,” said Sister Maalikah Muhammad, Program Director of Health and Human Services at A.C.T.I.O.N. CDC.
Through A.C.T.I.O.N. CDC’s Health and Human Services department, the organization has helped thousands of families across Houston communities who are determined to find a way out of their violence-stricken situations. The department’s most recent successes include:
- Engaging over 900 clients from September to December 2020 in online violence intervention and domestic violence prevention workshops, as well as educational seminars on topics such as mental health awareness, knowing your legal rights, and cleaning, sanitizing, and disinfecting, along with others, to aid with the fight against COVID-19
- Serving 8,000-10,000 individuals between August and December 2020
- Hosting over 10 food drives throughout the global pandemic to reach families in need
What makes A.C.T.I.O.N. CDC’s efforts so successful? A lot of love and a lot of partnerships.
“Our main ingredient is love. We don’t carry any weapons because we, as an organization, do not condone it. So, how do you go into an environment where there are plenty of weapons, anger, and hate? You go with love,” said Brother Eric Muhammad.
The organization also works with local leaders at the community, university, and government levels to create actionable change where it counts most. “We sit at the table with the Houston Police Department, many different mental health organizations, various religious organizations, community leaders, university researchers, politicians, and the street organizations themselves.
When you have those connections, you can come together to have a meaningful dialogue, create actionable items to serve the community and then commit to holding each other accountable,” continued Brother Eric.
One of those key relationships being with the Center for Justice Research (CJR) at Texas Southern University.
In partnership with Texas Southern University’s Center for Justice Research, A.C.T.I.O.N. CDC collaborated on a Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) grant proposal to implement and evaluate an evidence-supported, community-based firearm-related violence prevention program. With both organizations’ laser-focused on reducing the number of firearm-related homicides, aggravated assaults, and robberies in Houston – specifically in the Scott Street Corridor – we can collectively work together to create lasting change in our Houston communities.
“It takes everybody to make the neighborhood safe. We work hard to make it happen, and we hold everyone accountable for doing their part – and they do. Collaboration and cohesiveness are important to making our neighborhoods safe and decent places to live,” concluded Sister Maalikah Muhammad.
When it comes down to the center of it, it’s the people, communities, and relationships that are the true hearts of the matter. They are the focal point. The mission itself is the reason for Brother Eric, Sister Maalikah, and every member of the A.C.T.I.O.N. CDC team to get up in the morning with a vision that can undoubtedly become the community’s reality.
The Center for Justice Research is committed to creating justice reform-oriented solutions to reduce mass incarceration by connecting and applying academic thought to practical challenges. Learn more about CJR’s work in gun violence prevention, and other policy priorities, by visiting www.centerforjusticeresearch.org or contacting the center at email@example.com or 713-313-6843.
To learn more about A.C.T.I.O.N. CDC, United In Peace, or the organization’s Health and Human Services programs, visit www.actioncdc.org or contact them directly at firstname.lastname@example.org or 832-774-5270.