Cure Violence program comes to Grand Rapids


Courtesy / Fox 17

Kay Keller, Staff Writer

Cure Violence is an outreach program with the goal of preventing violence before it happens. With a team of outreach workers, violence interrupters and trainers, this group is set on making a safer city for everyone who lives there.

This past week, the City of Grand Rapids Office of Oversight and Public Accountability (OPA) hosted a meet and greet event with the newly assembled Grand Rapids Cure Violence team. OPA Director Brandon Davis hosted the event.

“The city of Grand Rapids is committed to being a place where all people feel safe and are safe at all times in our community,” Davis said.

Cure Violence stops the spread of violence by using methods and strategies that are associated with disease control.

“This is a global program or initiative, that aims at curing violence through a healthcare approach,” said President and CEO of Urban League of West Michigan, Eric Brown. “It’s an approach that interrupts violence, that performs outreach and that works to change the community norms in which that violence occurs.”

Cure Violence is an organization that is bigger than just the Grand Rapids area. This is a global group with a structured plan that they said stops violence. When the group comes to a new city, they start finding their “in” with the community.

All of the people who work with Cure Violence have experienced violence firsthand, as the victim, perpetrator or both. They’re people who not only are familiar with the community around them but also have firsthand knowledge of pre-violence signs.

“I’ve been affected by violence, drug addiction, I mean everything that poverty brings, I’ve experienced it,” said violence interrupter Alfred Fowler. “I got tired of feeling that way, tired of seeing it, and I just decided one day that we all say the world should change and our city should change and our state should change, and I just believed that change started with me.”

Several members have been to prison themselves and have taken to heart the message of wanting to be the change they want to see in the world. They are working closely with other members of the community to make sure that people don’t go down the same path that they did. Members of the Cure Violence team believe the people who experience and perpetuate violence are products of the same system that everyone else is a part of.

However, this isn’t easy work. Problems as large as widespread violence are not cured in a day. It’s the hard work of the dedicated individuals involved that will cultivate change.

“We have outreach workers that do long-term work. We’re not coming in these communities and being here today and gone tomorrow,” said global trainer Joaquin Tanky. “This takes consistency, it takes caring, it takes you to be able to roll up your sleeves and do the work.”

Cure Violence is a strategic organization. They’re not running blindly into a community and hoping that will facilitate change. The team has daily briefings, discusses who they believe is a high-risk individual, and have specific plans. They consistently keep up with groups and individuals to encourage peaceful alternatives.

One important goal for Cure Violence is to always respond to shootings. They want the community to know that violence isn’t acceptable and that there are other alternatives. They want to reset the social norms of the community.

“Violence is not a Chicago problem, it’s not a Grand Rapids problem, it’s a human problem,” Tanky said.

Cure Violence operates on the belief that people are capable of change and that when people come together, they are able to make that change. It takes a community to save the community.