University of Louisville Magazine

FALL 2017

The University of Louisville Alumni Magazine: for alumni, faculty, staff, students and anyone that is a UofL Cardinal fan.

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Page 37 of 75

36 UOFLMAGAZINE.COM reyVon Neely knows what people see when West Louisville is described in the media: violence, inequality, crime, poverty. The 23-year-old was born and raised in the California neighborhood. Yes, he has seen friends and family affected by violence. Yes, he and people close to him have had run-ins with the judicial system. But Neely sees something else in West Louisville. Some- thing he considers much more important and true to his experience. He sees his childhood. He sees a place where neighbors stop their cars on the corner just to say hello. He sees, at its core, a community filled with strong, resilient residents. "This is home," he said. Neely is one of several West Louisville youth fellows working with the University of Louisville's School of Public Health and Information Sci- ences (SPHIS) to rewrite the narrative of how West Louisville neighbor- hoods, residents and, specifically, youth are viewed. By combining aca- demic research with grassroots community action, Uof L's Youth Violence Prevention Research Center (YVPRC), aims to reduce youth violence by helping young people understand the context associated with the condi- tions in which they live, and to provide them with the tools they need to lead the community toward transformation. "It's really personal for me to make a change," Neely said, with a look of quiet resolve. Pride, Peace, Prevention The YVPRC was established in 2015 with a five-year, $5.7 million grant from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), and is a National Center of Excellence in Youth Vio- lence Prevention. It is one of only seven Centers of Excellence in the country dedicated to curbing youth violence. "At the end of the day, our young people are returning to very toxic situations that cause them to make daily decisions about what they are going to do. For some, it's not because they don't know better but sometimes they don't have a choice," said Monique Ingram, director of the center. "Ultimately we want to change the social conditions and create environments where vio- lence is not the first resort." Changing social conditions requires a thorough understand- ing of how those conditions came to be. That's why another goal of the YVPRC's efforts is to counter and shift the dominant narra- tive surrounding what it means to be an African American in the United States, a narrative borne from injustice and inaccurate portrayals of history. "Historical patterns of racial discrimination, inequality and lack of economic opportunity have helped foster beliefs that pro- mote and condone violence," said Monica Wendel, principal inves- tigator of the CDC grant. "When a distinct portion of the population systematically does not receive justice from the institutions of society, they begin to believe that the only justice they receive is jus- tice they exact themselves." The YVPRC faculty and staff brought years of behavioral research to the table. But to truly affect change in West Louisville, "We hope to give them a space to develop what they already have within themselves and build capacity to bring lasting change to communities." Youth fellows and community members shared the Pride, Peace, Prevention campaign at a block party in May.

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