Russell Simmons Joins NYC City Councilmen and Erica Ford, LIFE Camp, Inc. Founder,
for Press Conference and Call to Action Against Youth Violence;
Group Announces New York Peace Week 2013

Russell Simmons

Life Camp Rally

LIFE Camp, Inc., a New York City nonprofit, held a press conference Monday with New York City young adults, mothers who lost their children to gun violence and community experts to lay out solutions and launch the fourth annual New York Peace Week (January 15–22, 2013). Peace Week is being held in honor of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.’s legacy of non-violence.

As a result of the mass killings at the Sandy Hook Elementary School in Connecticut, President Barack Obama convened a task force headed by Vice President Joe Biden. On Monday, January 7, LIFE Camp, Inc., Founder Erica Ford joined a group of select youth/young adult advocates and senior administration officials at the White House for a discussion focused on deterring mass shootings and the reduction of gun violence in communities throughout the United States.

LIFE Camp, Inc., which enjoys support from the likes of the New York City Council, Russell Simmons, Deepak Chopra, Amare Stoudemire, Macy’s, New York Community Trust, and Cheryl “Salt” Wray, works vigorously to promote the value of LIFE and to reduce teen violence. At the press conference, Ford, along with A.T. Mitchell of Man Up, Inc., Chaz Williams of South Jamaica Cure Violence and Quentin Walcott of CONNECT, was joined by hip-hop impresario Russell Simmons and NYC Council members Leroy Comrie, Ruben Wills and Jumaane D. Williams. Also in attendance was Terrie M. Williams, mental health advocate, psychotherapist and author of Black Pain: It Just Looks Like We’re Not Hurting. They spoke about the need for increased awareness of the gun-related deaths ravaging inner-city communities and detailed the initiatives undertaken by their respective organizations to help combat the epidemic.

Simmons called for increased funding for programs aimed at combating violence amongst inner-city youth as a primary tool in the fight against the epidemic. “What we need from the national level down to the city and state levels is a focus on these matters,” Simmons declared.

Peace Week, a series of events designed to create a culture of peace throughout New York City for seven days, aims to combat the challenges facing young people in New York City, where Black children are killed regularly. LIFE Camp, Inc., has also developed a three-year violence prevention pilot program. Homicide is the leading cause of death among youth, one in ten teens report not going to school because of feeling unsafe at or on their way to school and many youth don’t expect to survive beyond the next five years. This point was driven home through the tearful words of Penny Wrencher, a New York City mother who lost her young son to gun violence. Noting that the progression of photos stops with a death, she stated, “I want to know who stopped my pictures.”

At the press conference, details of LIFE Camp’s I Love My LIFE Violence Intervention & Prevention (VIP) Program was disseminated. The VIP program is a three‐year pilot project targeting 13 to 25-year-old South Jamaica, Queens teens and young adults, families who have been touched by violence-related tragedies and service providers handling the aftermath of such incidents. The project is designed to fundamentally change how interpersonal violence is experienced, perceived and managed to assist in eradicating the reasons for youth gun violence.

LIFE Camp, Inc., was founded by Ford in 2002 to teach violence prevention in schools, following the tragic murders of two community children. The organization has since expanded its role to also generate empowerment opportunities for youth who are educationally, economically and socially disadvantaged.

“People can learn more about Peace Week by visiting our site,,” said Ford, who suggested that violence be addressed as a mental health issue. “They can find out about events that they can come out to or participate by creating a video promoting peace or uploading a photo of a loved one lost to violence. The important thing is to keep the conversation going on this issue.”

Photos Courtesy Of: Gerald Peart