What could actually help us reduce gun violence, according to research.

In the early 1990s, Boston faced an epidemic of youth homicides.

Photo via iStock.


In 1990 alone, 73 people under the age of 24 were murdered in Boston, up 230% from 1987. From 1991 to 1995, an average of 45 young people were killed each year.

But over the next five years, those numbers dropped dramatically.

In 1999, only five young adults were murdered in gang-related incidents. There was also an overall 32% drop in shots-fired calls, a 25% drop in gun assaults, and, in one district, a 44% drop in youth gun assaults.

So, what happened? What was behind what people call “The Boston Miracle”?

The answer wasn’t drug sweeps, mass arrests, indiscriminate stop-and-frisk programs, or other kinds of broad and aggressive policing.

The answer is deceptively simple: Ordinary people got involved, worked together, and directly faced the roots of violence in their communities.

One of those people was Rev. Jeffrey Brown, who was then pastor of the Union Baptist Church in Cambridge, Massachusetts.

Boston clergy like Brown knew the toll of gun violence firsthand: They’d officiated over dozens of funerals, and mourners at one funeral were even attacked by members of a gang during the service.

Many across the world are exhausted with gun violence. Image from iStock.

Together, these clergy members decided they’d had enough, so they founded the group Boston TenPoint Coalition.

The Boston TenPoint Coalition walked the streets late at night, actually talking with the people who were caught up in violence.

What they learned about these kids and gun violence during those walks was surprising.

Traditionally, in Boston, violence was known to be directly tied to the drug trade. When crack cocaine hit the streets in the mid-'80s, battles over control of potential drug markets had soared.

But once turf had been established and those original conflicts subsided, the guns didn’t go away.

Instead, the guns were being used in encounters that would otherwise have had less lethal outcomes — in longstanding rivalries (“beefs”) between loosely organized groups, and in fights over perceived disrespect.

The coalition learned something else: The idea that inner-city neighborhoods are full of hard-core, unredeemable “super-predator” teens is very off-base.

In actuality, the number of people who were involved in organized gangs was tiny. Criminologists studying Boston’s violence problem put the number at less than 1% of Boston’s youth population, and below 3% even in high-risk areas.

In fact, many of the youth caught up in violence weren’t members of organized gangs at all. They felt they had no choice but to respond to acts of aggression in kind — which led to inevitable retaliatory escalations for everybody involved. Perpetrators of violence were likely to be its victims, and vice versa.

The overwhelming majority of the youth Brown and the activists from TenPoint met wanted to find a way out of that cycle, but they didn’t know how.

In other words, Brown and others found that the body count wasn’t inevitable: If the cycle of escalation could be broken and youth given other options, gun violence could be stopped before it started.


Youth across the nation are looking for ways out of the culture of gun violence. Photo by Scott Olson/Getty Images.

This “research” convinced Brown and TenPoint to pioneer a new strategy for tackling gun violence: the Ceasefire model.

The Ceasefire model involves partnerships between groups that are frequently pitted against one another or working at cross-purposes: police, community groups, and, most importantly, marginalized youth and even gang members.

Much like preventive medicine, which doesn’t wait for someone to get critically ill before doctors intervene, this approach doesn’t wait for crimes to happen — it addresses their roots instead.

On the policing side, the program involves “focused deterrence,” an example of “problem-oriented policing.Police and other researchers identify “hot spots” and other patterns of where and when violence is likely to occur.

Photo from iStock.

They also identify the networks of people who are most likely to be involved, both as victims and as perpetrators. Community activists, clergy, educators, parole officers, and social workers then meet with those at-risk folks.

Conversation is central to this process.

“In my mind, youth gun violence is a cultural phenomenon that's created when the social and economic structures in a given community are weakened (failed housing policies, chronic unemployment and underemployment, poor educational institutions, poor health care, drug abuse and a proliferation of easy-to-buy guns),” Brown says.

“The culture is also created when we fail to listen to and value the wisdom of the voices of those who are living every day in a violent culture.”

Without that engagement, the work won’t succeed. Brown cites a Burundian proverb: “What you do for me without me, you do to me.”

Since the first Boston experiment, this model has worked well in many cities.

Variations on the Ceasefire model have been implemented in cities around the country, from Indianapolis to Newark to Cincinnati to Nashville to Honolulu. The results have been consistent: statistically significant drops in gun homicide rates, gun assaults, gunshot wounds, and repeat offenses.

Taken together, this proven track record has made Ceasefire one of a handful of interventional programs in the U.S. that receive a full "Effective" rating by the Department of Justice.

If the program is so effective, why aren’t we using it against gun violence in every city in America?

Many Americans have spent years calling for ending gun violence. Photo from iStock.

There’s a problem: Despite being comparatively inexpensive and proven to save lives, Ceasefire programs require a long-term boots-on-the-ground commitment from institutions, authorities, and politicians.

The programs have been consistently underfunded, both by states and by the federal government. And it’s hard not to reach the conclusion that this is because the people whom Ceasefire helps most, and who are disproportionately the victims of gun homicides nationwide, are black.

Meanwhile, Brown is still spreading the word about this program because he believes it could solve many problems.

He now has a new organization, called RECAP (Rebuilding Every Community Around Peace). Having done work in 22 cities, he’s traveling the country telling his story, building a movement and organizing a “National Season of Peace” program.

Brown says his own epiphany about violence came when he broadened his understanding of “community.”

“I think everyone has a responsibility to do something to help end the dominance of violence in our culture,” he says. “Since violence is the culture, we must stand against it by nurturing a counter-culture of peace.”

If we’re serious about lowering the toll of gun violence in America, we should take programs like these more seriously.

Ceasefire won’t end gun all violence in America, of course. It won’t stop high-profile rampage shootings, and it won’t directly stop intimate partner murders either. We need to work on other ways to respond to those problems.

But Ceasefire is a way to radically reduce the largest single category of gun homicides in the U.S.: inner-city violence. While the national conversation on guns is dominated by deadlocked debates over watch lists and weapons bans, we often neglect this part of the landscape, where there is a proven way to save lives and lower violence overall.

Are we willing to listen to each other and actually do something about that?

Are we ready to come together with our communities? And are our elected officials ready to do the same?

Images courtesy of Mark Storhaug & Kaiya Bates

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The experiences we have at school tend to stay with us throughout our lives. It's an impactful time where small acts of kindness, encouragement, and inspiration go a long way.

Schools, classrooms, and teachers that are welcoming and inclusive support students' development and help set them up for a positive and engaging path in life.

Here are three of our favorite everyday actions that are spreading kindness on campus in a big way:

Image courtesy of Mark Storhaug

1. Pickleball to Get Fifth Graders Moving

Mark Storhaug is a 5th grade teacher at Kingsley Elementary in Los Angeles, who wants to use pickleball to get his students "moving on the playground again after 15 months of being Zombies learning at home."

Pickleball is a paddle ball sport that mixes elements of badminton, table tennis, and tennis, where two or four players use solid paddles to hit a perforated plastic ball over a net. It's as simple as that.

Kingsley Elementary is in a low-income neighborhood where outdoor spaces where kids can move around are minimal. Mark's goal is to get two or three pickleball courts set up in the schoolyard and have kids join in on what's quickly becoming a national craze. Mark hopes that pickleball will promote movement and teamwork for all his students. He aims to take advantage of the 20-minute physical education time allotted each day to introduce the game to his students.

Help Mark get his students outside, exercising, learning to cooperate, and having fun by donating to his GoFundMe.

Image courtesy of Kaiya Bates

2. Staying C.A.L.M: Regulation Kits for Kids

According to the WHO around 280 million people worldwide suffer from depression. In the US, 1 in 5 adults experience mental illness and 1 in 20 experience severe mental illness, according to the National Alliance on Mental Illness.

Kaiya Bates, who was recently crowned Miss Tri-Cities Outstanding Teen for 2022, is one of those people, and has endured severe anxiety, depression, and selective mutism for most of her life.

Through her GoFundMe, Kaiya aims to use her "knowledge to inspire and help others through their mental health journey and to spread positive and factual awareness."

She's put together regulation kits (that she's used herself) for teachers to use with students who are experiencing stress and anxiety. Each "CALM-ing" kit includes a two-minute timer, fidget toolboxes, storage crates, breathing spheres, art supplies and more.

Kaiya's GoFundMe goal is to send a kit to every teacher in every school in the Pasco School District in Washington where she lives.

To help Kaiya achieve her goal, visit Staying C.A.L.M: Regulation Kits for Kids.

Image courtesy of Julie Tarman

3. Library for a high school heritage Spanish class

Julie Tarman is a high school Spanish teacher in Sacramento, California, who hopes to raise enough money to create a Spanish language class library.

The school is in a low-income area, and although her students come from Spanish-speaking homes, they need help building their fluency, confidence, and vocabulary through reading Spanish language books that will actually interest them.

Julie believes that creating a library that affirms her students' cultural heritage will allow them to discover the joy of reading, learn new things about the world, and be supported in their academic futures.

To support Julie's GoFundMe, visit Library for a high school heritage Spanish class.

Do YOU have an idea for a fundraiser that could make a difference? Upworthy and GoFundMe are celebrating ideas that make the world a better, kinder place. Visit upworthy.com/kindness to join the largest collaboration for human kindness in history and start your own GoFundMe.

Image is a representation of the grandfather, not the anonymous subject of the story.

Eight years a go, a grandfather in Michigan wrote a powerful letter to his daughter after she kicked out her son out of the house for being gay. It's so perfectly written that it crops up on social media every so often.

The letter is beautiful because it's written by a man who may not be with the times, but his heart is in the right place.

It first appeared on the Facebook page FCKH8 and a representative told Gawker that the letter was given to them by Chad, the 16-year-old boy referenced in the letter.

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When a pet is admitted to a shelter it can be a traumatizing experience. Many are afraid of their new surroundings and are far from comfortable showing off their unique personalities. The problem is that's when many of them have their photos taken to appear in online searches.

Chewy, the pet retailer who has dedicated themselves to supporting shelters and rescues throughout the country, recognized the important work of a couple in Tampa, FL who have been taking professional photos of shelter pets to help get them adopted.

"If it's a photo of a scared animal, most people, subconsciously or even consciously, are going to skip over it," pet photographer Adam Goldberg says. "They can't visualize that dog in their home."

Adam realized the importance of quality shelter photos while working as a social media specialist for the Humane Society of Broward County in Fort Lauderdale, Florida.

"The photos were taken top-down so you couldn't see the size of the pet, and the flash would create these red eyes," he recalls. "Sometimes [volunteers] would shoot the photos through the chain-link fences."

That's why Adam and his wife, Mary, have spent much of their free time over the past five years photographing over 1,200 shelter animals to show off their unique personalities to potential adoptive families. The Goldbergs' wonderful work was recently profiled by Chewy in the video above entitled, "A Day in the Life of a Shelter Pet Photographer."