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Councilmember Marqueece Harris Dawson Brings Healing Circles to South L.A.
By Special to the Sentinel
Published October 10, 2019

Councilmember Harris Dawson with two young men during the Annual Health & Wellness Festival. (COURTESY CITY HALL)

Communities across South Los Angeles have historically experienced increased incidents of violence during the summer months. Disheartened by this reality and unwilling to concede this as a way of life in South L.A., Los Angeles City Councilmember Marqueece Harris-Dawson launched an innovative $1 million Community Safety Initiative to prevent gun violence during the summer and respond to the lasting trauma communities experience as a result of violent crime. In addition to addressing the real community safety concerns across the district, the Initiative funds Healing Circles, which provide the mental health services necessary to support survivors of trauma and address the stigma around mental health in our communities.

“While we continue to address gun violence in our communities, we cannot ignore the mental health impact violence has on residents,” said Harris-Dawson. “Community policing is a powerful tool; however, we also need creative solutions that respond to the trauma that gun violence imprints on South L.A. residents. The trauma residents live with has a lasting social, emotional and physical impact. Many instances of violence stem from unaddressed trauma. The healing circles introduced by the Community Safety Initiative give residents the space and tools to process, communicate and heal from these experiences. Thanks to the Ballmer Foundation, the California Wellness Foundation and the Weingart Foundation, over 270 healing circles and preventative mental health services have been delivered in South L.A.”

The Community Safety Initiative delivers mental health services in the form of Healing Circles to residents across South L.A., in conjunction with existing summer programs like Summer Night Lights. These Healing Circles bring residents together to discuss their experiences and how the community can work together to heal, increase accountability and public safety. Participants share personal traumatic stories as a form of cathartic healing therapy. The Healing Circles also provide a safe supportive environment which gives many participants the opportunity to process their full range of feelings for the first time. In addition to providing free accessible mental health services to residents, the Healing Circles also help remove some of the stigma around discussing trauma and mental health in the Black community.

All of the Healing Circles are led by community intervention workers and organizations that are intimately familiar with South L.A. communities and residents trained to provide mental health services. Many of the community intervention workers are South L.A. residents who have been directly impacted by gun violence. Every participant will receive a signed certificate from City Hall for their work on the Community Safety Initiative. On Saturday, October 12th, the councilmember will recognize participants and service providers for their commitment and courage to be vulnerable and share their stories to help our community heal. With each participant’s story, another resident is encouraged to share theirs; thus, chipping away at the stigma around mental health discussions.

The Community Safety Initiative funds public safety programs that address the root causes and effects of violence and move away from over policing in favor of innovative programs. Councilmember Harris-Dawson leads this collaborative effort with City Council Districts 9, 10 and 15 to reduce violent crime in our communities. The Community Safety Initiative was made possible through the generous support of the Ballmer Foundation, the California Wellness Foundation and the Weingart Foundation who all believe in the power of prevention and intervention strategies that leverage and expand existing resources to serve South L.A. communities.

Categories: Crenshaw & Around | Local | News
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