A couple of weeks ago, I wrote about the violence in our community and that there are many organizations partnering with law enforcement to help make a difference in directing our youth to make good sound decisions, showing them that violence is not the answer. Today, I am going to share with you a program that is reaching out with a new approach, bringing the neighborhood together.
Gang Alternative, a pro-family, character-building organization aimed at preventing gang violence in Miami, has partnered with Miami Police to kick off its first “Gang Alternative Block Party” to connect Little Haiti children and families to a safe space in Miami.
The party was punctuated by a community painting project, turning a graffiti-covered wall into a beautiful mural created by artist Cesar Santos and neighborhood youth. The goal of the gathering was to surround families with the resources they need to keep children safe and expose them to a support system that will help end the cycle of violence often experienced on Miami streets.
“In order to put an end to gun violence, we must unify our community. There’s no better time to do that than right before spring break when kids have free time on their hands,” Gang Alternative Executive Director Michael Nozile said. “Kids aren’t naturally born bad. Kids join gangs in the pursuance of gaining a sense of identity and belonging; and sometimes they find it among people whom are detrimentally influential. At Gang Alternative, we provide a safe space for our youth and their families to build character and a sense of belonging year round.”
Gang Alternative’s goal is to unify the community through engaging residents and law enforcement. Just blocks from the Gang Alternative facility at 6620 N. Miami Ave., more than 100 Little Haiti residents gathered to paint over the graffiti wall and create bonds between neighbors.
We can make a difference working together, whether through Neighborhood Watch or school Youth Crime Watch programs — we just need to give it a chance. As Nozile said, “kids aren’t born bad.” We just need to work the environment and teach them from an early age the difference from “right and wrong.”
Carmen Caldwell is executive director of Citizens’ Crime Watch of Miami-Dade. Send feedback and news for this column to firstname.lastname@example.org, or call her at 305-470-1670.