September is Suicide Awareness Month: A Survivor’s Story

Monday, August 24, 2020
4:00-5:00 pm
Via Zoom (link will be emailed prior to the meeting)

Once shrouded in secrecy, suicide has become more openly discussed not only by mental health professionals but by parents and teachers, bosses and colleagues. Guns are often the weapon of choice.

Leading up to Suicide Awareness Month in September, join us to hear Jennifer Levinson, a mother, former teacher, activist and suicide survivor, who will share her own experience and her current work to help those in crisis through the SPEAK UP Foundation. The Foundation was started by the bereaved families of two local teens who died by suicide in 2015.

When the pandemic began, we and many mental health professionals feared the isolation, anxiety and increased unemployment could lead to more suicides nationwide. While actual figures are not yet compiled, news reports have noted an increase in suicides among Blacks in Chicago. Sadly, we anticipate seeing similar reports about the rest of the population.
In Chicago, a Steep Rise in Suicide Among Black People

Suicide is one of GAGV’s major concerns because it accounts for approximately 63% of all firearm deaths. Our successful Lock It For Love program (see article below) is designed to decrease the incidence of suicide by promoting safe gun storage through the distribution of free gun locks. In addition to those efforts, GAGV is actively involved with suicide prevention activities in metro Kansas City through memberships in the Johnson County Suicide Prevention Coalition, the Greater Kansas City Mental Health Coalition and Kansas City Suicide Awareness and Prevention Program.

Learn more from Jennifer, a SPEAK UP board member, about other advocacy actions we can take to prevent suicide deaths at our August meeting. Watch for the Zoom link to join the conversation.

Every Vote Counts!

That’s what we heard from Nadine Johnson, Executive Director of ACLU Kansas, at our Zoom meeting in July. Despite some initial technical glitches, 72 people waited patiently and were rewarded by Nadine describing the actions of both ACLU Kansas and the national organization to ensure every person has the opportunity to vote. Read the details in the meeting minutes.

If you haven’t already voted early or mailed in your ballot, be sure to vote this coming Tuesday August 4. Call and remind a friend or neighbor who might not be as diligent as you!

Guest Column from Aim4Peace

As gun violence has increased here and in cities around the country, GAGV asked for insights from outside our organization. This month we welcome guest columnists Rashid Junaid and Lia Thompson from Aim4Peace, a local public health approach to preventing retaliatory violence. Mr. Junaid is its violence prevention manager and Ms. Thompson is a hospital caseworker in the KCMO Health Deptartment.

Fighting Epidemics of Violence & Health

Aim4Peace finds itself on the frontlines fighting two epidemics, violence and COVID-19, while navigating racism in all sectors of life. Many people of color suffer from the compounding effects of social inequality, structural racism and cumulative disadvantage which often result in anger, trauma, and hopelessness. Those overarching emotions coupled with a lack of conflict-resolution skills too often result in individuals resorting to violence to solve their problems.

While the Black Lives Matter (BLM) protests strive to make change at the policy level, we at Aim4Peace work diligently to provide hope, offer conflict-resolution training, and practice trauma-informed care to do our part in making sure every Black life matters.

This year has set a precedent in the fight for social reform with millions of people demonstrating for change in the midst of a global pandemic. As protests continue, it’s evident seeking justice and equity is a marathon, not a sprint. Yet the sheer volume and diversity of people participating in the protests demonstrate we’re more united than originally thought and seem ready to have uncomfortable conversations about race and oppression.

Here and across the nation, we see the uptick in gun violence-related crimes in neighborhoods inhabited primarily by African-Americans. Repeated exposure to trauma and violence exacerbates the violence culture we see play out on our nightly news. A child killed. A woman shot. Two males killed in a car outside a local bar. It’s become the desensitizing norm Aim4Peace is working to stop.

October 12 Virtual Forum 
Gun Violence: Going Beyond Thoughts and Prayers

Plans are progressing for our 7th annual, but first ever virtual, Community Forum! As you can see from this editorial in The Kansas City Star, our topic is absolutely the right one at the right time: After 2 KCPD officers shot, Gov. Mike Parson sends prayers. But KC needs more than that.

While we may not be physically together, we are united in our efforts to prevent gun violence and have planned an informative and inspiring program featuring these local leaders:

Faith Panelists: Rabbi Doug Alpert, Congregation Kol Ami; Reverend Tom Are, Village Presbyterian Church, and Reverend John Modest Miles, Morning Star Missionary Baptist Church.

Business Panelist: Ken Novak, Ph.D., UMKC professor of criminal justice and criminology, discussing the role of gun violence on business, and a business leader TBA.

Government Panels: Kevin McManus Mayor Pro Tem of KCMO, and Jerry Stogsdill, Kansas House of Representatives from Prairie Village.

An exciting addition: KCMO Mayor Quinton Lucas will be the closing session speaker.

Plan to join us Monday, October 12.  We encourage you to register now

Because the Forum is virtual, you can invite as many people as you wish to join you once you’re registered. The Forum provides an opportunity to share our gun safety message with family, friends and colleagues here, around the country and even around the world. We have plenty of room!

GAGV In the News

We continue to be the “go-to” source for media comment about gun violence. In addition to the Flatland story, Judy Sherry also represented GAGV on 41 KSHB.

On July 30 Judy was a special guest on a Zoom conversation with gun violence prevention activist and former U.S. Congresswoman Gabby Giffords and Kansas Senator Barbara Bollier, Democratic primary candidate for the U.S. Senate, as part of their Road to Universal Background Checks Tour. The tour has traveled virtually to eight key states, profiling their gun violence prevention candidates. You can view the 40-minute conversation here.

News You Can Use

Information is power, and without it we struggle to solve problems. Information in a recent story from Flatland, Kansas City PBS’ news magazine, profiles an alarming group new to many of us and based in Columbia, MO: The John Brown Gun Club, which advocates using firearms to support its principles.

It’s an extreme left-leaning social justice group but unlike most left-leaning groups, its members are armed. The Flatland story illustrates the dangers of armed groups from both the right and the left and also includes a brief a quote from Judy Sherry, GAGV president.

Left-Wing Groups Take Up Arms in Name of Abolitionist John Brown

Lock It For Love Develops a New Model During the Covid-19 Crisis

Like other organizations whose activities have been curtailed by the pandemic, Lock It For Love weathered cancellations of 16 community events but is now back in business with drive-through!

Last month LIFL volunteers distributed free gun locks at two metro events whose participants drove through food pick-up lines where they were asked if they also needed a gun lock. If so, drivers rolled down their car windows and LIFL volunteers gave them a sealed plastic bag with a gun lock, instructions on how to use it properly and other gun safety information.

A combined 133 gun locks were distributed at the two events, a Pop-Up Food Pantry with Harvesters at the KCMO Health Dept. and a Christmas in July event hosted by Urban Community Connections at Front Porch Alliance. LIFL volunteers wore masks and gloves and felt well-protected during drive-thru, according to Barb McNeile, LIFL co-chair.

Working with Harvesters, Barb expects more invitations for LIFL to participate at similar upcoming events. Look for emails to volunteer using Sign-Up Genius. If you have any questions about the new LIFL model, contact Barb or her LIFL co-chair, Chris Glenski, at [email protected].

Our “Vision” for Vision Quilt is Growing!

We have now contributed 11 panels to the digital Vision Quilt with several more panels in the works. Cathy DeForest, Vision Quilt founder, created a five-minute video just for our project. Watch it here. We believe you’ll find it inspiring and informative.

When we first introduced this project in March, we said it was a wonderful way to spend shelter-in-place time. Sadly, we’re still in the throes of the pandemic that’s also producing a tragic increase in the number of homicides and shootings.

Perhaps making a quilt with a vision of freedom from the fear of gun violence could be an antidote during these troubled times. If you’re interested, please contact [email protected] and we’ll respond ASAP with arrangements to get materials to you.

Here are a few of our newer ones. All are posted on the Vision Quilt page of our website.

Small Acts of Kindness Garner BIG Thanks!

While we’re preoccupied with the elections and other “big” issues, we can also do small, very much appreciated favors for others. Our small but mighty GAGV member Marilyn Cohen buys popsicles and distributes them to workers battling the heat while repairing and upgrading infrastructure that make our lives more convenient. Her small acts of kindest are really big! We can all make a difference, big and small!

“To anyone out there who’s hurting –
it’s not a sign of weakness to ask for help.
It’s a sign of strength.”

                                                                                    ~ Barack Obama

Grandparents Against Gun Violence is a 501(c)(3) organization based in Kansas City, Missouri, that focuses on issues related to gun violence in Kansas and Missouri. We are working with community partners on strategies such as distributing gun locks to help gun owners protect the children in their homes from tragedy.

P.O. Box 11193, Overland Park, KS 66207  |  [email protected]

Donate to Grandparents Against Gun Violence

Facebook  •  Unsubscribe