“S.O.S. isn’t speaking from up in the balcony…. No, you are down on the floor with us. So that impacts me in a different way.”
– WaSun Wilson
As we at Neighbors in Action reflect on the past year, we are continually inspired by the young people we get to work with on a daily basis. Rahson Johnson, Youth Programs Coordinator, sat down with one of our youth leaders, WaSun Wilson, to hear his story and understand why he keeps coming back Neighbors in Action.
WaSun, age 19, is from the neighborhood of Bedford-Stuyvesant. He is a member of the Neighbors in Action Youth Advisory Council, a participant in the Anti-Gun Violence Youth Employment Program, and a former participant of YO S.O.S. and JCP: Justice Community Plus.
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Rahson: So, how did you first get involved with Neighbors in Action?
WaSun: Well, I went to a high school known as Gotham Professional Arts Academy and in there we had, you know, you had your bullies, your violent kids, and your dramatic ones… and I kinda fell into every category, but I was like the leader. So, Dave Grant (Community Liaison, S.O.S. Bed-Stuy) began to come to my school. And they began to put together a men’s group, and basically, we would just go in there and talk about our feelings. You know, if you’re having a rough week, instead of going and punching doors or something, you go to Dave and explain to him how the week was going. And anything that he could do for us, he did.
I was facing some financial issues, and he told me about a program that– at the time it was Crown Heights Mediation Center– was holding, the JCP (Justice Community Plus) program. When I came through, I came in late. And that’s the first thing, I actually wasn’t supposed to make the program, but once I came in, my peers and peer leaders, Anthony, and Ms. G, she loved my energy, she loved what I brought to the table. They kept me throughout the program. We learned how to make shirts. I got in front of the camera, something that I like doing, and they helped me build soft skills like communication ‘cause I would say I was a little knucklehead before. I couldn’t get it together.
R: Alright, it was JCP, our work readiness program, that brought you in. And y’all did the t-shirt?
W: Yeah, we did the DAV t-shirt, Dope Authentic Voice. I thought that was cool because at the time, JCP was giving me my own dope authentic voice. And you know, that’s how I’m able to sit here now and have this interview, because I have such a good work history with NIA, S.O.S., YO S.O.S.. Now I’m enrolled in AGVEYP (Anti-Gun Violence Youth Employment Program), which is just another building block in itself.
R: Absolutely, AGVEYP, our Anti-Gun Violence Youth Employment Program. So, what keeps you coming back to our programs?
W: Just the sense of family, you know? I can come here if there’s anything I need, I can come talk to you, Ms. G, Anthony, anyone, and it’s always a welcoming face. Anytime that I’ve come here, I haven’t felt denied– no, “Hey why don’t you come back another time, we aren’t ready for you.” No, I can be coming here and be going through my worst crises, and you guys always help me through everything.
R: That’s great. And I know you already said it some, but talk a little about how you see our programs impact you and impact our community, specifically around the issue that we have with gun violence, but also putting young people in leadership positions?
W: I feel that this program impacts me a lot and the message of (anti-)gun violence because you guys are right there where it’s happening.
You aren’t speaking from up in the balcony like, “Hey you guys, you shouldn’t use guns!” No, you guys are down on the floor with us. So that impacts me in a different way. You guys are fighting something that I feel isn’t right– (gun violence) it destroys, it doesn’t build. I haven’t heard of a gun helping a family or building up anything. It’s just destruction. It’s impactful just due to the fact that you guys are there firsthand. If something breaks out on the streets, you guys are out there. I just can’t say enough about the amount of things you guys do to help us out in the community.