Derick Scott is an Outreach Worker with S.O.S. Crown Heights. This is his story of how he got involved in working with S.O.S. to end gun violence. This story was originally posted on the website, Interrupt Violence, which is affliated with the documentary “The Interrupters.”

Derick at a rally in response to a neighborhood shooting

I was affected by violence early in life. When I was eight years old my uncle molested me. I started reacting in the schools, fighting, getting into gangs. 

When my step father left I would go out and do the things he’d have done, drinking and smoking reefer, at eleven and twelve years old. I got expelled from school and spent four years in a juvenile center, ended up running away. I was into gang fights, drinking, drugging. When I came back to New York, I was eighteen years old.

I was fast tempo, a ladies man, quick to the bullet. But that’s not who I was, it’s who I became because of the circumstances. It was just a protective shell.

What turned things around was doing time in prison. I remember, after I was sentenced to my long stint, I was in the mess hall, and as I looked around the reality hit me that I was going to be doing some time and I wasn’t going to be able to see my children. That was my break down…I had been hungry, and suddenly I wasn’t hungry anymore. I went back to my cell and cried. 

So I started focusing on trying to change myself. Eventually I became head of a religious organization in prison. I started educating individuals there that the enemy was the inner me. That’s a philosophy of mine: not to point fingers at anyone else. The power to change reality lies only within yourself. 

I came home in 2002, and things started looking up. I started seeing my children; they had been listening to rumors about what I once was, so I had to give them a deeper understanding of who I was and who I am today. It was a struggle, with my children and with the community. I got a job within the first two weeks out of prison, and I wanted to make a positive change, so I started volunteering.

I had volunteered in Crown Heights and lived there when I was much younger. So my Pastor told me about this program, about the Crown Heights Mediation Center and Save Our Streets. 

I met the directors, and they interviewed me, and at that moment I realized that I had a chance to undo a lot of wrong that I’ve done. And in a sense as I was helping others, I was more so helping myself. 

What continues to motivating me now is that I don’t want these young kids to do the same thing that I did. A lot of these kids don’t have the love. 

So I’m fighting for that eight year-old that was molested that no one can talk to. I’m fighting for that thirteen year-old that was sent away. I’m fighting for the sixteen year-old who was placed in a psychiatric center and ran away. 

These are individuals like myself, and I believe in their change because I changed. I want them to understand that change is a constant process. 

They say these individuals are nothing but they are someone. These individuals that are hopeless, a lot of them are not being heard, listened to, held, loved. But love does exist. We don’t always have to be out there shooting and killing one another. 

When interrupting a violent episode, I like to tell those involved that that’s not the way. I tell them, I know what you’re feeling right now. They’ll look at me and say, how do you know? 

And I say, I’ve been there. I explain to them what they’re feeling, and show them their life after they do what they do. Think of someone else before you pull the trigger, your siblings, your child, a wife or girlfriend, your mother, because once you pull that trigger, all those people are going to feel it, and you’ll be thinking of them afterwards, when you’re in that cold cell. 

I just lost my brother to gun violence. That showed more of the reality, that gun violence is everywhere. And for me to stop fighting is like a spit in my brother’s face, a spit into the young kids’ faces. 

Even if there was no S.O.S., I would still be doing something to ensure that there would be change.