Website aims to increase victim services for young men of color


One of my colleagues recently sent me an email with an interesting title in the subject line.

It read “New Website Aims to Increase Victim Services for Young Men of Color.”

So I went to the website, and what I’m about to share I encourage young men of color who have access to a computer to check out.

The website is www.healingworks.org.

The Vera Institute of Justice announced it as an in-kind learning collaborative “for people and organizations working with young men of color who have been harmed by trauma and violence.”

According to its website, the Vera Institute of Justice is a research-and-policy organization that combines expertise in research, demonstration projects and technical assistance to help leaders in government and civil society improve the systems people rely on for justice and safety. To find out more, go to the institute’s Facebook page, www.facebook.com/ verainstitute.

It is no secret that black and Hispanic men are disproportionately victimized by crime.

According to the Vera Institute, data collected by the Bureau of Statistics at the U.S. Department of Justice from 1996 through 2007 show that young black men were most likely to be robbed each year and most likely to be victimized by violence overall in six of the 11 years.

Youngstown has recorded six homicides this year, and four victims were black men between age 23 and 30.

When you go to the website, click on the “About Us” link to find out the genesis for HealingWorks.

The organization affirms that traditional service agencies that include community programs, churches, schools and private homes are generally effective, but “they are also overburdened, undervalued and severely underresourced.”

“HealingWorks’ goal is to unite the individuals and organizations that do this critical work, providing mechanisms to share and explore practices, increase resources and elevate the leadership of those who have paved the way,” according to the website narrative. “Because effective practice doesn’t happen in isolation, HealingWorks promotes practices that take place in a community context, addressing the essential roles of women, elders and other community members in facilitating healing.”

The HealingWorks Learning Collaborative addresses the service gap faced by these young survivors by delivering tools, resources and community-building support – available in an online resource center – to the people and organizations that serve them.

HealingWorks is a project of Common Justice, located in Brooklyn, N.Y., a victim-service and alternative-to-incarceration program.

“It provides a framework for working with young men of color, tools for increasing access to funding and support for such work, perspectives of young survivors and a forum for peer-to-peer communication, among other resources, according to the website.

The Langeloth Foundation out of New York provides a good deal of the funding for Common Justice. According to its website, the foundation’s purpose is to “promote and support effective and creative programs, practices and policies related to healing from illness, accident, physical, social or emotional trauma, and to extend the availability of programs that promote healing to underserved populations.”

The email contained this quote from Michael Rowe, case coordinator for harmed parties at Common Justice: “The violence we suffer as men of color has been normalized by the larger society. It is imperative that we find ways to let these young men know that it’s acceptable and healthy to address their pain, and to help them learn how to do so in a constructive manner. Uniting the individuals and organizations taking on this work is a critical step in improving our responses to these young men.”

On the HealingWorks website, you can click on a link to listen to young black and Hispanic men offer their stories, insights and perspectives about being harmed by violence and trauma, and how they are working to overcome their plight.

Click on the link “Our Framework” and you will find this information. The HealingWorks framework includes five key principles:

Embracing self-leadership.

Using cultural and spiritual components in healing.

Addressing racial trauma head on.

Ensuring a strengths-based approach.

Building skills and capacity.

The site then gives a brief explanation of each of those principles and how they are intertwined to help bring about change for young black and Hispanic men.

In Brooklyn, Common Justice operates the first alternative-to-incarceration and victim-service program in the United States that focuses on violent felonies in the adult courts. Seventy percent of the victims served by their work are young men of color.

Encourage a young man who may not have read this column to go to healingworks.org and see what resources are available. You can even click on the “connect with your peers” link to find others in similar situations. You have nothing to lose, and hopefully, something to gain.

Ernie Brown Jr., a regional editor at The Vindicator, writes a monthly minority-affairs column. Contact him at ebrown@vindy.com

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