Voices Against Violence is a Black-led violence prevention and intervention program for Berkeley youth who are at risk of involvement in gang and gun violence. This is a program created and led by Pastor Michael Smith and his leadership team at McGee Avenue Baptist Church and the Center for Food, Faith and Justice.
The Family Spirit Center supports the success of VAV by participating on the leadership team, teaching art, and leading parent Listening Circles for the parents of youth in the program. In addition, a percentage of all our membership fees and income based on fees-for-service is donated to support Voices Against Violence.
The most important work in Berkeley is quietly being done in the after school hours by a handful of dedicated community members. Voices Against Violence is a program designed to support those young people who are at greatest risk of involvement in gang and gun violence in our City: Black boys.
Voices Against Violence puts caring, consistent Black men in the lives of these young people to serve as mentors and guides. They hold high standards for these kids because they see them. In a social environment that overlooks them (at best), and problematizes and penalizes them (at worst), the men who run this program see who these boys really are… and support them to grow into their best selves.
Decades of research in the youth development field has revealed that caring and consistent relationships with adults is the one tried-and-true intervention that improves the trajectory of a young person’s life. But reaching the kids who are in greatest need of this this kind of support is a special skill. It requires a kind of presence that not many people know how to provide.
But these men know how to be what is needed. I’ve seen them at work. They create a culture of care, respect, and high expectations around these boys. They track them, encourage them, and correct them when necessary. They do their work on a shoestring.
Can you help us ensure that this program will survive and thrive? Please join me in making an end of year donation that will help Voices Against Violence remain a steady presence in the lives of the young men who need it most.
As James Baldwin said, “For these are all our children, we will all profit or pay for what they become.”