In response to a string of shooting deaths during the summer of 2021, former Ypsilanti Mayor Lois Richardson united Ypsilanti’s community members to mobilize against a pervasive history of gun violence. Together, the group formed the Community Violence Intervention Team, whose sole purpose is proactively addressing intentional violence among youth.
The team is composed of 21 Ypsilanti community members and leaders who began meeting weekly, ruminating on how to prevent county violence.
From these conversations, the "Recommendation Report: was born— a multidisciplinary list of 14 initiatives recognizing violence as a public health issue, emphasizing community care and policy to disrupt existing cycles, and prevent new ones from emerging. The efforts include but are not limited to: addressing key people and places driving violence, employing lived experience to empathize and communicate with community members, and establishing a grief protocol.
Among the initiatives is a melancholic mural of a black rose designed by Ypsilanti student DeShawn Chambers. Surrounding the flora are the names of 50 Washtenaw County citizens who have lost their lives to gun violence since 2008. The majority are Black boys and men under 22 years old.
Jamall Bufford of the intervention team and Washtenaw organization My Brothers Keeper posits that this statistic speaks to a trauma response bred through slavery, the Jim Crow era, and an adverse legal system that plagues Black Americans and youth.
“We have some healing to do," Bufford said.
The undoing of these patterns will require better resources to occupy the time and minds of Ypsilanti community members to show them their value.
The mural is located at the front wall of Corner Health Center in Downtown Ypsilanti. The youth chose this area so that everyone in the community could view the painting at some point.
Bufford notes that being on a health center specifically is more of a “serendipitous coincidence.”
At its core, this mural signifies mourning. Though, as an art piece, it is its subjective nature. The rose is meant to bring people together and spark conversation, reminding community leaders and youth to nurture themselves and others.
The unveiling of this mural sparked momentum for the community group. Their recommendations are gradually being actualized and made visible online for all to view. As more funding and partnerships become available, hopefully the community of Ypsilanti will notice a decrease in retaliatory violence and an increase in emotionally and mentally healthy youth.
The groups initiative, blooming with the mural, signifies “the beginning of the end.”