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‘We do not need permission to save our own’: New group aims to reduce gun violence through accountability, activism

<p>One Thousand Black Me<a href="" target="_self">n</a> held a rally Sept. 25.&nbsp;</p>

One Thousand Black Men held a rally Sept. 25. 

Content warning: This article contains descriptions of violence. Reader discretion is advised.

A new activist group that includes Black politicians and other local leaders aims to take action against the rising tide of gun violence in Durham. 

The group, One Thousand Black Men, held a public rally Sept. 25 calling for the public to reach out to young Black men and for politicians to fund projects that curb poverty and intervene against gun violence. 

Police data from September that although burglary, aggravated assault and violent crime numbers are down, homicides have increased by 32% since last year. 

An 11-year-old boy in East Durham was struck in the back by a stray bullet Jan. 22. A month later, five people were shot in four different shooting incidents within a 24-hour period. On July 25, the bodies of Tyshawn Chavis, 24, and Donovan Bright, 26, were identified; the two were shot to death inside a car on Interstate 85. More recently, Shamori Brown, 21, and Tavis Rhodes, 20, were fatally shot at North Carolina Central University Sept. 18, and a pair was found shot after a police chase Oct. 23.

After a conversation about the deaths of young black men as a result of gun violence, Leonardo Williams, Mark-Anthony Middleton, Omar Beasley, John Rooks Jr. and Antonio Jones created OneKBM, an organization seeking to foster accountability not only in gun control but in all aspects of public policy. 

“It was a casual conversation, like ‘Damn, what are going to do?’” Williams said. “‘It seems like no one is doing anything.’ And this was a year and a half ago—things are a lot worse since then.”

OneKBM’s website provides ways for both people and policy to be more accountable in areas such as public health and education. The organization approaches accountability via a “lens analysis" by observing the status of Durham’s Black men through specified “lenses” of policy, then using this qualitative data to understand the root causes of problems facing Durham’s Black communities. 

“We’re meeting with every Black male principal and every Black assistant principal in Durham’s public schools, and we’re going to ask him: how do you see Black men … in public safety together through your lens of education?” Williams said. “And we’re going to do that same process with public health … in economic development … in small business,” he continued. 

Aside from their accountability goals, OneKBM leaders want to use their organization to ensure that young Black men have access to supportive mentors. Mentors meet with mentees, give them access to a network of preprofessional opportunities and encourage them to be positive members of their communities.

OneKBM’s mentorship program draws from its founders’ experiences. “Mentorship is practical from day to day, and it’s always going to look different based on the person that you’re spending that time with. But that time is what must be shared,” Williams said.

The goal of the mentorship program is simple—OneKBM seeks to give every young Black man in Durham a path to success by ensuring they graduate with a suit and tie, obtain a job or attend an institution of higher learning.

OneKBM’s philosophy is built upon the urgent need for action.

“The One Thousand Black Men collective is basically an initiative to ask Black men across the city to step up and step in, get engaged and not wait on a government institution to save us. We do not need permission to save our own,” Williams said. “Crime does not wait on bureaucracy.”


Audrey Wang | Staff Reporter

Audrey Wang is a Trinity first-year and a staff reporter for the news department.

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