Build a Better Us: Respect & Protect
What does Community Safety mean to you? Is it a decrease in gun violence, well-lit sidewalks at night, positive and respectful relationships between communities of color and the NYPD? What does Community Safety look like to you? Is it children playing in the park without fear, neighbors looking out for each other, decreased uniformed officers, and more resources? Everyone has a different perspective and needs when it comes to safety.
Join us as we hear from young people that are actively changing the narrative about Community Safety in their schools and communities, putting UNITY back in commUNITY, and working to create safe and brave spaces for all.
Iris SealIris Seal is lives in the birthplace of Hip Hop, the BX (Bronx), and has roots in Philadelphia and Florida. She is a young feminist learning more about her identity and her place in a world that marginalizes BIPOC and Women. She stands with the values and of the Black Lives Matter movement and wants to contribute to change in her community and America. Even with the inequities, she has witnessed in her sixteen rotations around the sun, she remains altruistic, positive, and hopeful. She is often thought of as a “breath of fresh air” and uses kindness to alleviate others' negative experiences.
Mohammad OguntolaMohammed Oguntola is a senior at Astor Collegiate Academy. He plans to continue his post-secondary education majoring in engineering on a pre-med track. He hopes to one day be a doctor or a researcher. Mohammad is an officer with The National Honors Society Club and Red Cross Club. Furthermore, he partakes in various after-school activities including the College now program, Ace Mentor Program, and Youth Advisory Council. Devoted to raising awareness and galvanizing action to combat inequality, intolerance, and other institutionalized issues that exist in society, he hopes to accomplish much in this nation and return to my native country to aid in its betterment.
Kawan Joseph is a sophomore at Fairleigh Dickinson University. In 2020, he and an HS friend, Jeff Senatus started a photography business called "ShotsbyJvisions." The business allowed him to network with a variety of clientele in and around Brooklyn, NY. Keep an eye out for these up and coming creatives.
My name is Maryam Oguntola, and I am a second-year honors student at John Jay College of Criminal Justice because of my passion for fairness and social justice. I am currently studying law and society with double minors in Dispute Resolution and Environmental Justice. I aspire to attend law school after receiving my bachelors’ degree and working at a nonprofit organization in an underrepresented community while practicing immigration and environmental law. My experiences as an immigrant in the United States has driven my passion in hel
Furthermore, these experiences pushed me to join the We the YOUTH Advisory Council to help educate and encourage fellow youths in seeking out equity. I am currently exploring and seeking out opportunities.
Elijah Green is a 16-year-old student at Broome Street Academy whose passion for community, racial equity and the arts has led him to activism and service. Elijah’s participation with The Possibility Project has given him the opportunity through theater arts to bring awareness, life and voice to issues that young people face every day: bullying, social acceptance, sexual orientation discrimination and gender identity bias. In addition to volunteering with the Bravo EMT Youth program in Bay Ridge, he is part of the NYPD Explorers program, where he is considering a career in law and public service. Most recently, Elijah helped form the grassroots NYC Marchers movement to speak out against police brutality. Elijah’s belief in equity constantly inspires him to “act as a bridge and be a catalyst for change while standing firm as an advocate for those most in need."
Abasiono EtukAbasiono hails from Nigeria and moved to New York City in her primary years. During her assimilation to a new country, culture, and new life, she quickly realized her uniqueness from her peers. This did not stop Abasiono from excelling academically and participating in sports at her local afterschool program. As a young adult, she held various retail jobs and experienced firsthand the inequities of being an immigrant and a woman in the workforce. This led her to realize how important it is to have self-awareness and self-love in a world that does not see past labels. After an injury on the job, she looked to healing mentally and physically. Now as a freelance Social Media Manager, a Proofreader and Editor, hairstylist, and wellness coach, Abasiono prioritizes sharing as much information as she can with her community about mental and spiritual wellness.
Chief Juanita N. Holmes
Chief Holmes was promoted to the rank of Sergeant in December of 1995. As a newly promoted supervisor, she was assigned to the 113th Precinct in Queens where she began to learn the fundamentals of police management. In 1998, she was assigned to Patrol Borough Bronx Investigations Unit and two years later returned to Queens in the 111th Precinct. She became a Lieutenant in 2002, first working in Police Service Area #8 and later Housing Bureau Bronx/Queens.
In June 2007, Chief Holmes attained the rank of Captain, and in June 2008 was assigned as the Commanding Officer of Police Service Area #2, giving her the opportunity to display her leadership skills and dedication towards the community. On August 28, 2009, she was promoted to the rank of Deputy Inspector and in July 2010 she was assigned as the new Commanding Officer of the 81st Precinct, where she was promoted to Inspector on January 27, 2012.
Inspector Holmes excelled in her efforts improving community relations and reducing crime within the 81st Precinct. Looking to continue her work Citywide, she transferred to the Training Bureau as Executive Officer, helping oversee recruit and in-service training for the NYPD. While assigned to the Training Bureau she was promoted to the rank of Deputy Chief and later became Commanding Officer of the Chief of Department’s Domestic Violence Unit, where she coordinated the NYPD’s response to family violence. On September 16, 2016, Chief Holmes became the first African American woman to serve as Borough Commander when she was promoted to Assistant Chief, overseeing eight precincts in Patrol Borough Queens North.
Chief Juanita N. Holmes joined the private sector in December 2018, serving as Global Head of Corporate Security at BNY Mellon. She resumed public service in December 2019 and was named Commanding Officer of the NYPD’s School Safety Division, overseeing 1.1 million students in over 1,800 schools, in approximately 1,400 physical sites Citywide.
On September 25, 2020, Chief Holmes was promoted to Chief of Collaborative Policing, overseeing the development of non-enforcement options improving access for police services. History was made on October 29, 2020, when she was appointed Chief of Patrol, overseeing 16,800 uniformed members serving in 77 precincts and 8 patrol boroughs across the City. In this position, Chief Juanita N. Holmes is the highest ranking African American woman ever in the NYPD and the first woman to serve as Chief of Patrol, managing the department’s largest bureau. She earned her Bachelor of Science degree in biology from St. Joseph’s College and graduated from the Police Management Institute at Columbia University. Chief Holmes is one of 16 members of her close family to serve in the NYPD.
Kirk D. Burkhalter
Kirk D. Burkhalter joined the full-time faculty of New York Law School (NYLS) in the fall of 2010. He teaches in areas of legal practice, criminal law, and has taught New York Law School’s extended version of the Summer Advantage Institute. He has also conducted workshops and seminars that focus on the substantive, analytical, and organizational skills specific to preparation for the New York State Bar Examination. Additionally, Professor Burkhalter is the director of the 21st-Century Policing Project (P21) at NYLS.
P21 is aimed at creating meaningful change in the relationship between police departments and the diverse communities they serve. Its activities include legal and policy advocacy, thought leadership, comparative analyses of different policing and Civilian Complaint Review Board models, on-site assistance to local jurisdictions, and robust engagement in the American Bar Association’s Legal Education Police Practices Consortium.
Professor Burkhalter has also worked on the development of and taught in NYLS’s Undergraduate Summer Pre-Law Program—a program designed to provide students from underrepresented populations with a dedicated set of opportunities to explore the law and create a pathway to earn their Juris Doctor degrees at the law school.
Prior to joining the NYLS faculty, Professor Burkhalter was the Visiting Assistant Professor of Academic Support at Hofstra School of Law and has also taught as an adjunct professor at John Jay College of Criminal Justice. Before working in academia, he was an associate in the Corporate Securities and Finance practice group at Pillsbury Winthrop Shaw Pittman LLP.
Earlier in his career, Professor Burkhalter served 20 years with the New York City Police Department (NYPD) retiring as Detective, First Grade. He spent much of his career with the NYPD conducting long-term investigations into organized criminal enterprises and domestic, ecological, and industrial terrorism. Professor Burkhalter regularly appears on the Law and Crime Network and other media outlets, providing commentary as a legal analyst.
Mr. Jackson is a community leader. He understands the importance of engaging in community service. He has Harlem’s best interests at heart but most importantly he strives to ensure that todays youth are being steered in the right direction. Omar has the passion, skill and "boots on the ground" attitude needed to drive change in the Harlem community. Omar is committed to making Harlem a better and safer place, with a wealth of resources and opportunity for all residents. With Omar Jackson SAVE, has a leader that is fearless and dedicated to working tirelessly on their behalf to change the narrative and create the change that is needed.
Omar Jackson is currently the director of Stand Against Violence East Harlem (SAVE). S.A.V.E which is GOSO’s cure violence program utilizes the Cure Violence model, empowering high risk youth, ages 16-24, to make positive changes in their communities by working to change their mindset and providing supportive services, as an effort to reduce the rising number of shootings in East Harlem. Omar oversees and makes decisions for both SAVE sites (Johnson/Jefferson & Wagner houses). Omar started out as an outreach worker supervisor in February of 2016. In less than two years, he was honorably promoted to Program Manager. Due to his drive, work ethic and his demonstration of great leadership Omar is currently the director of SAVE.
In 2017 Omar obtained his bachelor’s degree in Liberal Arts with a concentration in Psychology. Outside of his work at GOSO/SAVE, Omar volunteers in his spare time as the head basketball coach for the 7th grade team at Children's Aid Society's or “Milbank”, as people like to call it. Milbank has always been a place for grass roots leaders, like Omar, to get involved and make a difference. Omar is Harlem. He stands by the community 100% and lives by the motto, "you are either a part of the problem or the solution." Omar’s philosophy is “Even if you have been a product of your environment, you have every opportunity to have a seat at the table and to make a better tomorrow for your community”.
Dana Rachlin is a public safety advocate and co-founder of We Build the Block. Dana has been working over the last 11 years to support local communities facing over-policing, mass incarceration, and gun violence. She has created resources for youth impacted by system involvement and disrupting the school to prison pipeline. Dana has also worked with community organizations and law enforcement endeavoring to build new programs and protocols that replace traditional policing with community-led public safety models.
Tyler is an educator, writer, and organizer hailing from the city of Philadelphia. He is currently studying at Columbia University double majoring in African-American Studies and Creative Writing. Tyler is the lead instructor and program coordinator for the Justice Ambassadors Youth Council sponsored by the Center for Justice. There Tyler designs curriculum and teaches an 8-week course which seeks to bring together justice-involved youth and city officials to create new policy ideas that will better support NYC's most vulnerable communities. Tyler is also a community journalist with the Credible Messengers project, working on a project to tell the story of how gun violence and trauma affects the lives of Black men in the inner city. Through his work as a writer and movement worker Tyler uses his voice to offer analytical insights that aim to elevate the lived experiences of those that often go unseen and unheard.
Ethan Castro is a 16-year-old, Latino entrepreneur, and Podcast Host, from Brooklyn. He is extremely ambitious as well as excited to venture towards fulfilling his potential and purpose.
As a Student-Athlete at Brooklyn Technical High School, Ethan is the Podcast Host for OK-Zoomer, where he oversees American Youth Fitness. He is partnered with Student Dream, an organization that works towards improving the lives of New York City youth through financial literacy.
Ethan loves Philosophy, Psychology, “(Ph)itness” and People. He is honored to be able to assist the greater New York City community in any way he can!
Karla Sterrett is an 18-year-old Afro-Latina woman advocating for social justice and educating youth about voter suppression and civic engagement. Since 2016, Karla has been lobbying and speaking against social injustices. Her focus of work is understanding and educating others on the importance of voting, not only in presidential elections but also in local and state elections. Another important focus of Karla is gun violence prevention. Gun violence has impacted her family and doing this work is quite personal for her. She is passionate about taking up space in reclaiming what black and brown folks deserve.
Elias Hernandez is an honorary member of the Justice Ambassadors Youth Council (JAYC) at Columbia University. JAYC brings New York City youth together with City officials to discuss community challenges and to co-author policy proposals that seek to reform systems and institutions. His primary focus is bringing policymakers together with community members to work across differences that improve social challenges, particularly challenges facing youth.
In his work, Elias supports young people with policy advocacy leadership opportunities while explaining the extent to which mass incarceration and criminalization impacts minority communities and causes disenfranchisement. He collaborates with policymakers, civil servants, academics, community organizers and directly impacted communities, striving to create a new vision for the criminal legal system that can ultimately shape policies that help individuals, families and communities thrive.
The work of Elias Hernandez is driven around changing the narrative of the criminal justice system to ensure that justice and democracy are applied equally to everyone. As a result of his dedication towards transforming systems, Elias is aspiring to become a civil rights attorney. His goal is to help develop a national police-accountability tool that aims to prevent officer misconduct and officer involved shootings.
Royal Hyness Allah
Royal Hyness Allah is a youth organizer in Brooklyn, New York. In 2020 he founded Crew Count, the youth organizing arm of We Build the Block. Crew Count is a coalition of young people dedicated to educating their peers on the importance of voting, how to vote, and getting people elected that represent overpoliced groups. They are organizing to fundamentally change how elected officials legislate and draft policies for over-policed and marginalized communities.
MajorwayyMajorwayy is a blatina emcee from the lower east side( L.E.S ). She began her artistic journey at age 4 dancing ballet at the Third Street Musical School. Growing up in the L.E.S, she was involved with dance competitions and theater productions, feeding her hunger to create. Her influences include Lauryn Hill, Queen Latifa, and Missy Elliot who significantly impacted her love for Hip Hop. She can be found taking over cyphers and stages from NYC, Philly and beyond. Major Way aspires to inspire. The passion in her lyrics, and electric energy of her stage presence creates a vibe like no other. Majorwayy is a truth-spitter and go getter, and the only way to go is up.
Center for Justice at Columbia University1190 Amsterdam Avenue
219 Schermerhorn Hall
New York, NY 10027
Social Media Handle: @columbiacenterforjustice
Organizational Description: Justice Ambassadors is a platform for 18 to 24 year olds, who have been previously justice-involved and youth residing in New York City, to participate in an eight week, structured classroom setting with city officials to hold conversations about challenging community issues, including poverty, trauma, racial inequality, and to co-develop policy proposals. The program’s components are: 1) personal change - participants complete a 3-5 page statement that identifies an aspect of themselves they wish to improve and change, 2) community change - students conduct group presentations at NYC youth centers to advocate for community change and individual accountability, and 3) social change - students and city officials develop co-authored policy proposals to improve adverse social conditions. In sum, the Justice Ambassadors build on the leadership skills of youth and provide them with the opportunity to become drivers of democratic change within their community.
Justice Ambassadors is a collaboration between the Center for Justice at Columbia University, various organizations around the city, and city officials from agencies such as the Bronx Borough President's Office, Mayor’s Office, Department of Probation, Department of Education, New York City Council, New York City Police Department, Manhattan, Bronx and Brooklyn District Attorney Offices, Institute for Innovation in Prosecution, and NYC Administration of Child Services.
The class meets twice a week for eight weeks at Columbia University. In the first weekly
sessions, youth and city officials engage in policy discussions. In the second weekly sessions, youth visit community-based organizations and city bureaus/agencies to develop a sense of how social systems operate. The proposals are presented at the Justice Ambassadors Youth Summit, at the end of the course.
SAVE’s work is guided by the principles of Cure Violence, a strategy that leverages the experiences of members of the community to do outreach, including people who have been directly affected by gun violence and “violence interrupters,” young people who have formerly engaged in high-risk activities who act as credible messengers of an anti-violence message in order to prevent and reduce youth violence. Having turned their lives around, they are now engaging high risk individuals who are most likely to be involved in gun violence. SAVE outreach workers and violence interrupters are trained to mediate conflicts on the street and work to deescalate disputes before crisis or violence erupt.
SAVE additionally connects at-risk individuals to extensive networks that provide job training, employment opportunities, mental health services, and legal services that lead to long term violence reduction in East Harlem.
Stand Against Violence East Harlem (SAVE) is currently working in and around the Thomas Jefferson, James W. Johnson, and Robert F. Wagner NYCHA Housing Developments in East Harlem.
Youth Over Guns
Phone #: 212-679-2345
Youth Over Guns
P.O Box 3354 New York, NY 10163
Social Media Handle: @youthoverguns
Organizational Description: Youth Over Guns (YOG), a youth-led advocacy group, works to raise awareness about gun violence that impacts communities of color and to empower youth to advocate for life-saving policies and programs. YOG joined forces with NYAGV in November 2018, YOG was formed by students of color shortly after the mass shooting in Parkland, Florida. Its founding members include high school and college students from across New York City, as well as graduates of the NYAGV Education Fund’s ReACTION youth program to reduce gun violence. YOG advocates for policy reform and funding for intervention methods and programs to prevent the cycle of violence in underserved communities.
Call to Action:
Shed light on the school to prison and how that directly affects poling in NYC Public schools.
Social Media Handle: @yvote
Organizational Description: YVote is sparking a cross-partisan youth voting movement through which young people connect their passions and beliefs with how they can make a difference, at and beyond the ballot box.
Call to Action:
Mayoral Candidates Score Cards
Karla Strerrett speaking about Community Safety
Video Description: The Youth Town Hall Series, led-by-youth-for-youth. Youth moderators, youth panelists, and seasoned experts discuss topics impacting young people across NYC and hope to inform the youth agenda. This video clip of Karla Strerrett speaks about community safety. Visit https://nyc.gov/youthtownhall to learn more. #NYCyouthAgenda #WeTheYouthNYC #DYCD #NYCYouth.
Youth Town Hall Video
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