Blanche and Julian Robertson Foundation award grant for cure violence assessment efforts

Published 12:10 am Sunday, April 17, 2022

SALISBURY — The Blanche and Julian Robertson Foundation has awarded a $25,000 grant to nonprofit Gemstones & Compass Leadership Academy for an assessment of how a cure violence model could operate in Salisbury.

The cure violence model, founded in 1995 by Dr. Gary Slutkin of the World Health Organization’s Intervention Development Unit, approaches violence as a health crisis by employing interrupters and outreach workers who work to cut the cycle short and change community norms. While it exists in larger cities across the U.S. and the world, some cities closer to home have implemented the program as well, including Greensboro, the city and county of Durham and Charlotte.

In March, members of Greensboro’s cure violence model, called the Gate City Coalition, visited Salisbury City Council members to speak about the efforts and success in their city. Under their model, violence interrupters, or credible messengers who are connected to the impacted communities, work to deter violence while outreach workers connect those affected by violence to various resources that can include housing, jobs, education and legal assistance.

Bringing such a model to Salisbury is led at this time by council member Anthony Smith, who’s calling on the city to consider it as another tool in the toolbox that can be used to address violence. It was first discussed locally during the city’s Stop the Violence summit in 2017.

That starts with an official assessment from Cure Violence Global, based in Chicago. Smith said he and other organizing members are coordinating with the office in Chicago and Atlanta for a days- or week-long trip to Salisbury, where the team will assess crime data and hotspots and consider the city’s unique circumstances. That assessment will then provide more clarity about how to proceed, which agency should house such efforts and potential benefactors.

The cure violence website states that numerous workshops during the assessment familiarize stakeholders and community organizations with its model, with a focus on determining potential target areas, partnerships, workers and program structures for future implementation. Data review meetings are held with various agencies such as city and county leaders, the health department, local law enforcement, research institutions and trauma centers. Those meetings touch on the scope of violence city-wide, current and historic trends, drivers of violence, groups present and hot spots.

While some city governments have agreed to fund cure violence efforts, such as Greensboro, other models are housed within health departments that partner with other teams of nonprofits. Governmental agencies can also house such efforts. Smith said where the program would be centralized in Salisbury is still to be determined, but it ideally should be an organization with connections and relationships to the communities most impacted by violent crime.

Smith credited Rowan-Salisbury Schools Board of Education member and Gemstones Academy founder Alisha Byrd-Clark, along with community advocates Tim and George Bates, for helping organize efforts to begin the assessment. The Post was unable to reach Byrd-Clark for comment, and the Robertson Foundation informed the Post it doesn’t comment on individual grant awards.

Tim Bates told the Post he likes that cure violence takes a public health approach, allows an opportunity for community members to be directly involved in addressing violence and has data to back up its effectiveness. Salisbury is Bates’ hometown, and he has been involved in various other programs aimed at addressing violence in the community over the last 40 years, including Cease Fire, community policing efforts and Project Safe Neighborhoods.

With Project Safe Neighborhoods, Bates said it’s up to individuals to get connected to various resources to help their circumstances. But with cure violence models seen in other communities, the resources seem to come directly to participating individuals from outreach workers. Additionally, it’s a preventative approach that can also help bridge gaps in the community and stop violence when it’s brewing.

“It’s a relationship-builder and community-builder,” Bates said.

Bates said he was once involved in violence himself and thinks such a program could’ve helped him at that time by showing “a piece of hope out there.”

“We’re trying to build a movement of peace, organically, at the grassroots level, at the neighborhood level,” Smith said.

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About Natalie Anderson

Natalie Anderson covers the city of Salisbury, politics and more for the Salisbury Post. She joined the staff in January 2020 after graduating from Louisiana State University, where she was editor of The Reveille newspaper. Email her at natalie.anderson@salisburypost.com or call her at 704-797-4246.

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