The D.C. Peace Academy recognized its first class of violence interrupters to graduate from a program committed to raising up frontline workers in communities battling rising homicide rates.
During its first graduation of 23 community violence intervention workers, Lashonia Thompson-El, executive director of Peace for D.C., the organization behind the academy, said it’s about a collective effort.
“The power should be in the hands of the people on the front lines who have the credibility and relationships in the neighborhoods, who can prevent the shootings before they happen,” said Thompson-El.
The 13-week program taught workers from organizations around the city everything from how to treat bullet wounds to conflict resolution, while creating space for graduates to tackle their own traumas. During the ceremony, D.C. Mayor Muriel Bowser thanked the graduates for their commitment to the city.
“Some work for the government, some work for nonprofits but all are working to save lives in D.C.,” said Bowser. “If we do everything perfectly in our city and native Washingtonians don’t benefit then we haven’t done our job. Part of that is we have to be here.”
One of the academy’s graduates, Antoine Gatlin, is a program manager for Cure the Streets. He was born and raised in the community he now serves and spent time in the streets as a child before deciding to make a change.
“I’ve been in and out of the prison system on multiple occasions. My time attending the D.C. Peace Academy was phenomenal,” he said.
Thompson-El said they are now focused on training about 300 violence intervention workers from organizations and nonprofits across the city. The academy is preparing for the next cohort to begin in September.
“I’m convinced that because of y’all we can do it,” she added.