Neighbors in Action (NIA) and Save our Streets (SOS) Brooklyn conducted a Peace March through Bed-Stuy on Saturday, June 29, to close out National Gun Violence Awareness month and mark the beginning of its “Summer of Safety.” With a recent uptick in shootings in both Crown Heights and Bed-Stuy, over 80 community residents, faith leaders, business owners, supporters, and elected officials joined to denounce violence in the neighborhood and encourage peace and harmony. Staff from SOS Brooklyn were clad in bright orange, the color of gun violence awareness and prevention, and handed out orange towels to community residents as they passed by, which came in handy on the 90-plus-degree, humid summer day.

The procession began in Herbert Von King Park in the heart of Bed-Stuy, traveled down Tompkins Avenue and then on the Fulton Street business corridor to Restoration Plaza, where the crowd rallied for words from special invited guests. “CoCo,” a long-time staff member at S.O.S. Bed-Stuy, served as hype-woman and master of ceremonies, introducing representatives from NYC Mayor Bill de Blasio’s Office, Brooklyn District Attorney Eric Gonzalez’s office, and District Manager Henry Butler from Brooklyn Community Board 3.

NY State Assemblymember Tremaine Wright served up inspiring words and noted that legislators need to focus on how illegal guns are trafficked into Brooklyn. She was joined in sentiment by Natalie Arzu, who lost her brother to gun violence and shared how she testified in front of the NYC Council about “ghost-guns” which are handcrafted and made without serial numbers. Aalayah Eastmond, who grew up in Brooklyn and lost her uncle to gun violence in the borough, recounted her harrowing ordeal surviving the infamous mass shooting at Majory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida, that occurred last year. While that tragic event holds fast in the memories of Americans across the country, Aalayah expressed her hope that people recognize that individual shootings destroy lives and happen more frequently in communities like Bed-Stuy. Reverend Kevin Jones, NIA’s clergy outreach leader, remarked on the community’s faith and resolve, and how those qualities will be necessary for future violence prevention.

NIA and SOS Brooklyn are grateful to all its partners who joined for the event, including Mother’s Demand Action, the NYPD 79th Precinct Clergy Council, Grandmother’s Love Over Violence (LOV), leadership and youth from the Universal Church, and the NYPD Brooklyn Clergy Taskforce.