Since the school shooting in Parkland, Florida just a few weeks ago, a lot more attention has turned to the epidemic of gun violence, and rightfully so. But the thing is, in all of the conversation about gun control and gun violence, communities of color (especially black communities) are often left behind, or not even included in the conversation.
But one black woman is taking the lead, and making sure that black people are not only heard, but on the front lines of the fight.
Tired of black people being excluded from conversations about gun violence, in November 2016, Amber Goodwin created Community Justice Reform Coalition (CJRC) to put people of color in leadership positions to help combat gun violence.
At the time, it was clear that the black community was under attack and other communities of color were about to come under attack as well. But the landscape of those fighting for change were always overwhelmingly white. “It has been a challenge making sure we not only have a seat at the table, but making sure we have a voice that is heard and an equitable stake in organizing around an issue like gun violence,” Goodwin said in an interview with The Grio in 2017.
CJRC describes itself as a “national advocacy coalition that promotes and invests in evidence-based policies and programs to prevent gun violence and uplift criminal justice reforms in urban communities of color,” per their website. They also train people of color to take on leadership roles not only in their community, but on a larger platform to join the conversation about gun violence, and advocate for the people of color who so often get left out of the conversation.
Let’s face it, the way we talk about gun reform and gun violence in this country is very one-sided. It usually only comes up after a major incident, like a school shooting, but so often the everyday effects of gun violence are not given the same consideration. It’s the everyday type of gun violence that most greatly impacts black communities, and other communities of color. For instance, in the 10 days following the Parkland shooing, at least 21 other children were killed by gun violence in the U.S., according to information tracked by the nonprofit Gun Violence Archive. And as ABC News reports, every day in America, approximately 19 children are killed or injured by guns.
And this goes beyond the myth of black on black crime. The Gun Violence Archive reports that as of March 2018, there are approximately 2,500 gun-related deaths in the United States. Since the beginning of the year, there have been 405 gun-related incidents where police shot and/or killed a subject. And we know that the subject in those situations is almost always a person of color. Comparatively, there were only 55 incidents where police officers were shot and/or killed. That is an eighth of the amount of subjects.
Goodwin really began to notice the disparity in representation after working with former Arizona Representative Gabby Giffords. “I started to look at the holes in organizing and in funding to support the ground work that needed to happen.” Goodwin said.
If we’ve learned anything in the last few years, it’s that representation matters, and it goes way beyond things like books and movies. When it comes to advocating for your people and your community, you need to show up to be taken seriously. And the only way we can show up is if we are given the tools to do so.
That is the CJRC’s biggest goal — to arm people of color with the knowledge to go to things like town hall meetings and rallies and be able to clearly articulate how gun violence has a very real impact on our communities. White people aren’t going to take the issue seriously if black people don’t come out and force them to.
Violence against black people, black communities, and other communities of color isn’t going away any time soon — especially not in this current political climate, where people of color are made out to be bad guys who are coming to usurp the traditionally “American” way of life. It is important that we have the space to speak for ourselves and our people, especially the ones who have already lost their lives in the fight for gun reform.
“We are working to make sure there is an effort to keep our communities safe. We want to make sure we are helping people who are going to be directly impacted by these policies,” Goodwin told The Grio.
Goodwin and her team from the CJRC are currently traveling around the country to places that are largely ignored in the bigger conversations about gun violence. They will be training people on how to advocate for their communities, and offering things like media training to people who have been directly affected by gun violence. They will also give them the tools to successfully invoke changes in gun violence policies at various levels. She and her team are showing that they’re in the fight for gun violence reform for the long haul, and hopefully, people will take notice and give them their rightful seat at the table.