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Clergy, counselors offer support at Healing Harlem event

Community organizations come together for Healing Harlem event
Community organizations come together for Healing Harlem event 01:51

NEW YORK - Community organizations came together for a Healing Harlem event Friday in response to recent gun violence. A college basketball player was killed last weekend, and the event aimed to prevent more tragedy.

People walking down Fifth Avenue near 135th Street in Harlem Friday afternoon expressed shock to find a casket in the middle of the sidewalk. But that shock value is the point. 

The idea for healing Harlem in this jarring way came from Shawanna Vaughn.

"We've got to get to these kids before the guns," said Vaughn.

Vaughn's organization Silent Cry, Inc. works with incarcerated individuals and their families.

"We can't just keep having rallies," Vaughn said. "We can't keep marching. We have to do something that is holistic in our community."

The sidewalk event featured clergy, counselors and volunteers like Ssliicc, a young filmmaker and designer who was once on a path towards violence himself.

"I'm trying my best to be out in the community, show them there's better things to do, there's not always the streets," Ssliicc said. 

Ruth McDaniels' son is serving time for shooting a gun at someone, telling her he had been the victim of repeated bullying and robberies before retaliating.

"People's response to hurt and mistreatment and humiliation are different," McDaniels said. "Some people are able to shuck it off and just walk away. And some people really feel pressed upon."

McDaniels retired from a career in law enforcement and never suspected her son would turn to violence. She founded the organization Breaking The Chains Of Your Mind to warn other parents.

"If you're not checking their rooms, if you're not seeing what's going on with your kids, you're not a part of anything," said McDaniels. 

The goal is to keep Harlem's young people alive and out of the casket.

"Healing hurts," Vaughn said. "Healing is like birthing a baby with no anesthetic. But after healing, there's a better life, there's a better community after this. We have to get to it."

Have a story idea or tip in Harlem? Email Jessi by CLICKING HERE.

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