This past weekend I had the opportunity to participate in the Re3 Story Hack sponsored by The New School, Hyperakt, Vizzuality, Canada Engineers Without Borders, and Blue Ridge Foundation NY. The hackathon’s goal was to address social issues such as homelessness, poverty, immigration detention, solitary confinement, and gun violence through creating narratives and tools that challenge the main stream media’s representation of these issues. My team was to tackle the issue of gun violence; specifically addressing the lack of mental health resources for inner city communities that deal with gun violence as well as the normalization of violence, specifically with young adults. The first part of our day on saturday was spent doing research that took the form of interviewing two violence interrupters working in Brooklyn. Both were men that had done jail time and chose to return to their communities with the goal of doing work to end violence taking place within them. Hearing these men’s stories, work, and perspectives was an invaluable experience and in itself alone worth attending the hackathon.
From these interviews we brainstormed ideas and reflected them back to one of the interrupters who spent the day at the hackathon with us and another team working on the issue of gun violence. Our team who was composed of a documentary film maker, a professional graphic designer, a person working in media and a couple other MFA students from SVA and Pratt came up with the idea to create a series of posters and a website that centers around 4 central ideas we gained from our interviews; 1. Every Shooting is a Mass Shooting, 2. What goes up comes down, 3. Hurt People Hurt People. and 4. Check your status.
“Every Shooting” became the title of our project. It metaphorically refers to the act of a single shooting causing a ripple effect in a community. Not only are the perpetrator and victim affected but also are their friends, significant others, family, teachers, place of worship, and other community members. These ripple effects lead to unaddressed trauma in communities, a point which is expanded in #3.
“What goes up comes down” was inspired by one of the interrupters stories of firing gun shots into the air off a fire escape. At the time he had no thought that the bullets would land some where, potentially endangering someone’s life. This symbolizes that actions have consequences and asks youth to consider the consequences of their actions before acting.
“Hurt People Hurt People” draws from the fact that those who have been traumatized and abused are likely to inflict abuse on others. This was the case with one of the interrupters we spoke with, growing up he experienced both domestic violence and sexual abuse. Not having anyone to talk to about these experiences he internalized them and as a result inflicted violence on others. It wasn’t until he did jail time and reflected on his situation did he start to consider why he had performed violent acts.
The last point asks the viewer to “Check their status” or to reflect on their mental and emotional state. It asks a series of questions and then presents links to resources where the individuals can seek help.
Another web developer, Paul Schreiber, and I coded the website portion of the project while Stuart Rogers created the poster designs. Other members of our team worked on the copy and theme. The website can be viewed temporarily here: bit.ly/every_shooting
Our goal is for this project to become integrated with a Instagram campaign (proposed by the other group that was also tackling gun violence) that targets youth and tries to create a point of entry for them to access resources that will help them achieve positive goals in life and stray away from violence. We are now looking into meeting andworking with the Fortune Society to see how the project can move forward. The hackathon was very intense and a ton of work but it was a very rewarding experience, I’m glad I chose to dedicate a weekend to it.