This post was originally published on New York Amsterdam News

By Tandy Lau

Just hours before rappers Future and 21 Savage hit the Barclays Center stage Friday, Dec. 30, the world-famous Brooklyn arena was in a state of grief. Under bright LED signs advertising game packages and pro wrestling shows, a candle-lit vigil paid respects to the 240-plus people killed by city shootings this past year in what Public Advocate Jumaane Williams called a “preventable pandemic” for Black and brown New Yorkers. 

The ceremony marked New York City’s first observation of the proposed National Day of Remembrance for Gun-Related Homicide Victims, hosted by gun violence czar Andre “A.T.” Mitchell. Speakers included Williams, Mayor Eric Adams, Brooklyn Borough President Antonio Reynoso and NYPD Commissioner Keechant Sewell. 

“As we wind down this year, I am charged with noting the successes of 2022—it is the responsibility of my position to highlight that we have a decrease in shootings and homicides this year over last,” said Sewell. “But that is cold comfort to those of us who have lost your mothers, your fathers, your sisters, your brothers and your friends to gun violence.”

As of Christmas, there are 302 fewer victims of total gun violence this year than in 2021. Shootings are down a total 17% and murders are down by 13.1%. But those are just empty statistics for the families of the reportedly 251 people remembered. During the vigil, their names were read, with some killed as recently as Dec. 28, and Mitchell recalling he had to reprint programs to update the ever-growing list of victims. 

They’re dying by a preventable pandemic. And we are saying if these were anything but Black and brown bodies, this would have ended a long, long time ago.

Andre “A.T.” Mitchell, gun violence activist

Adams did not mince words for outside critics. “When you hear all these folks—with all this noise—living in safe communities where [there’s] no crime trying to tell us how to protect our community, you need to tell them ‘shut up,’” he said. 

“My guess is the media may focus on the mayor telling everybody ‘shut up,’ but I also want them to focus on the parts where you saw everyone aligned around what to do about gun violence,” said Williams. “You have the mayor, you have the public advocate, the police commissioner, the deputy mayor, you have A.T. Mitchell, you have all of the community here, aligned [in] screaming that people are dying. 

“They’re dying by a preventable pandemic. And we are saying if these were anything but Black and brown bodies, this would have ended a long, long time ago.”

Unfortunately, there are no vaccines for this pandemic. And even Adams, wearing an NYPD hat, said policing would not resolve the city’s gun violence issue. Instead, the “Cure Violence” model was highlighted as a potential solution. The prevention-based approach employs community outreach and “credible messengers” to de-escalate conflicts and offer at-risk youth alternative-to-crime opportunities in neighborhoods hardest hit by gun violence.

There are 15 Cure Violence programs currently in New York City, with six in Brooklyn. One is Man Up! Inc., which was founded by Mitchell in 2005 and helped East New York go an entire calendar year, 2012–’13, without a shooting. In June, Mitchell was named Adams’s gun violence czar. 

In 2017, the Queensbridge Houses in Queens, the country’s largest public housing complex, similarly went 365 days without a shooting thanks to 696, a Cure Violence program led by K. Bain, a long-term ally of Williams. 

The initial model was founded in Chicago, but is now a nationwide movement. 

“What’s happening right now in other cities across America, there have been similar programs just like this,” said Mitchell. “In cities like Newark, Philadelphia, Baltimore…they’re having a similar National Day of Remembrance program for their victims of homicides. There are so many other cities that are celebrating this national day as we speak. And I want to make sure that they know that New York City is appreciative of them being involved in this work with us and for us.”

Over the summer, Mitchell told the Amsterdam News that harm reduction was a key strategy for gun violence interrupters to successfully curb shootings. While stabbings are one of the fastest-growing public safety concerns around town, they are also a sign that firearms are getting taken off the streets. The goal is to reduce disputes from guns down to knives—then down to fists—and ultimately down to words. 
Tandy Lau is a Report for America corps member and writes about public safety for the Amsterdam News. Your donation to match our RFA grant helps keep him writing stories like this one; please consider making a tax-deductible gift of any amount today by visiting

The post END GUN VIOLENCE: New Yorkers call for end to ‘preventable pandemic’ appeared first on New York Amsterdam News.