WASHINGTON — Combating D.C.'s gun violence problem is challenging enough for activists. Then, the pandemic added an extra hurdle.
Clayton Rosenberg serves as the chief of staff for the Alliance of Concerned Men and the Director of Operations for the group's program "Cure the Streets." Essentially, he mentors young people in the hope of keeping them out of trouble.
This past week was tough for him. D.C. Police reported 10 homicides in total, one of whom was his former neighbor, 30-year-old Michael Bright. He had just moved from his home on 45th Street, Northeast a few months ago.
“He was a fun guy, definitely just by him seeing me walk my dog, he’d ask me about my dog here and there, and just walking around the neighborhood," Rosenberg said.
Early Sunday morning, police said 31-year-old Noelle Wilson was shot to death in the 2300 block of Green Street, Southeast.
“It’s happening now all over the city," Rosenberg said. "It’s not in the usual areas that you’re used to seeing violence occur. That goes to show you something that needs to be done, and it needs to be done quickly. Even as violence interrupters, in our neighborhoods, we’re keeping down the gun violence, but now we see in the neighborhoods we’re not in, it’s occurring."
He said young people are in two simultaneous fights for their life.
“They don’t know do they have to look out for the coronavirus or do they have to look out for another virus, which is gun violence," Rosenberg said.
He said the biggest problem during the pandemic has been that there are not enough mentors to reach every community where they're needed.
“Before the pandemic really hit, we were really onto something special, even in our neighborhoods, reducing the violence," Rosenberg said. "But as the pandemic hit, less of us are seen by the community. Few of us are not able to talk to these individuals who are concerned with high risk. … so for us, it’s been really difficult.”
He said they desperately need more resources to reach more people and are looking to the D.C. government, foundations, and corporations moving into the city for help to keep their neighborhoods safe.
“We have to put our foot on the pedal and we have to make sure that we’re driving resources into these communities, we’re driving violence interrupters into these communities, we’re driving peace," Rosenberg said. "So that we as a community, as a society, as a village can stand up and be proud of what we accomplish.”