“Changing the world starts with changing our fundamental state of mind”
-Daisaku Ikeda

Crown Heights is my home. From the hallways of P.S. 138 on Prospect Place and Nostrand Avenue to Brower Park to Sonatas Steel Orchestra on Sterling and Troy to the West Indian Day Parade on Eastern Parkway, Crown Heights is my home. I am a true product of this neighborhood. I have received academic accolades in one vein and handcuffs in the other. I have seen Crown Heights grow from the crack-filled, crime-riddled days of the 1980’s to the gentrifying neighborhood it is becoming. Throughout it all, however, there has remained one constant; crime. As someone that has been on both sides of the crime spectrum as a youth, I have experienced the pain both as the victim and perpetrator of how violence feels. I have experienced the indifference and apathy that many of us feel towards violence in our community. Furthermore, as someone that has spent many years working with young people in Brooklyn, I know of their ability to influence our neighborhood for the good and the bad.

Realizing the enormous potential of our young people, I now represent this community as the Program Coordinator for a new youth development program called Youth Organizing to Save Our Streets (YO S.O.S.). YO S.O.S. has been created to give young people the power to change the way we view violence in our neighborhoods. As we see it, in order to reduce violence, we have to first change how we view violence. Our youth initiative will provide after school programming that will give interactive life skills training and leadership development while empowering Youth to be leaders and organizers around issues of nonviolence. These youth organizers will provide the cultural shift necessary to change how we view violence in our community. As an added incentive to participation in this afterschool movement, we will provide paid summer employment opportunities for all completed program participants.

We invite you to join on this youth-led campaign of nonviolence, and we ask you to keep in mind the words of Martin Luther King, Jr.: “Whatever affects one directly, affects all indirectly.” Only when we realize that we are all affected by violence will we be able to change our fundamental state of mind. Only then will we be able to change the one constant in this, my home, Crown Heights.
Power to the Youth!

Marlon Peterson
YO S.O.S. Program Coordinator