Research shows that gangs and trauma are typically joined hand and hand. Many of the actions of so-called gang members stem from unaddressed childhood traumatic experiences which may include parental abandonment, physical and sexual abuse, witnessing excessive violence, and much more. United We Stand Up has created a safe space to engage in the process of healing.
We embody the healing process in three ways:
Members of identified tribes sit and break bread with each other while discussing positive and negative experiences. Most of all, we teach them how to utilize their past experiences in a new and purpose-filled lifestyle. Healing circles are facilitated and led by identified spiritual leaders, mentors, life coaches, certified instructors, gang culture specialists, and therapists.
UWSU partners with trained and licensed therapists to assist each member in navigating their way through the healing process by way of conversations and therapeutic exercises. This effort is led by licensed psychologist, Dr. Shalonda "Sunshine" Crawford, PsyD.
UWSU creates a space for individual counseling with mentors, pastors, and licensed therapists to assist with each member’s journey through the healing process. These sessions are usually followed up with assessments and status reports.
United We Stand Up has successfully fostered at least four peace treaties with rival communities on the eastside of Los Angeles. Our primary aim is to help foster more reconciliations while maintaining the peace that has already been established.
We embody the Unity movement in three ways:
Peace Table Talks
Bi-weekly table talks with different tribes to end gang wars, stop retaliation activity and create conflict resolution. UWSU board members and identified peacemakers oversee peace table talks within their own respective tribes/communities. We make it clear that peace and unity are not the ultimate goals but are necessary components and discipline to reach the overarching goal of community progress and success.
Collaborative Community Givebacks
Monthly community givebacks are hosted by former rivals to show unity, peace, and community care. The givebacks include but are not limited to providing community resources like groceries, household items, school supplies, furniture, etc.
Peace Rally Brunch
UWSU’s annual Peace Rally in South Central LA. Hundreds of peacemakers who are either currently in or formerly affiliated with different gang tribes on the eastside of Los Angeles are in attendance at these rallies. Also in attendance are faith-based leaders of the Christian and Muslim faiths. Mothers and fathers of slain children, activists, politicians and recording artists are also regular attendees. The main focus of this event is to bring exposure to the good and uplifting efforts happening in the neighborhoods that are typically only known for destruction.
What We Are About
I wasn't expecting the transition...
It was motivational to me
We all came together...
Bloods, Crips... We know each other now and that unity to me
South Central Los Angeles communities have been faced with gang violence for years. It is widely understood that most of the young people who join gangs do so to obtain clout, protection, respect, and a sense of family and belonging. None of these goals are flawed in themselves. Still, the road to those goals has been distorted. Our community needs a system and appropriate approach to empower our young kings and queens to foster safe and secure family structures and environments and to receive the individual and cultural respect they seek by teaching them to become H.E.R.O.E.S in their community. In this fashion, they are equipped to fulfill the need for purpose and a distinguished identity.
Most importantly, UWSU is providing these heroes with a healthy place of belonging to include extended family circles. The goal is to change what is currently known as “Gang-Banging” to Community Serving. UWSU does not aim to remove individuals from the tribe they consider family. We aim to change the focus of the ‘so-called’ gang members, who will, in turn, ultimately change the nature of what is considered gang culture.
We embody this transformation in three ways:
The H.E.R.O.E.S Project
We identify, support, and train 20 community H.E.R.O.E.S., an acronym for:
These HEROES are recruited and nominated by peacemakers from several different gangs, tribes, and other community organizations.
Once selected, HEROES participate in a 10-week (non-consecutive) cohort that includes intervention, prevention training, and boots-on-the-ground community service. Each hero is partnered with a mentor and life coach and participates in the mental health support group. The uniqueness of our HEROES project is that the gang tribe members, who we expect to see transformed, will be recruited and mentored by gang tribe members who have themselves been transformed and have become community heroes themselves.
Jobs, Carreers and Resources
UWSU not only cares about removing a weapon from the gang tribe member's hand, but we also care about the empty hand. We realize we cannot ask these young men and women to put down their guns without giving them something else to pick up. With that notion conceptually at the center, we connect our heroes with job opportunities, resources, career training, record expungement, tattoo removal, criminal intervention, housing, etc. We are able to do this with the help of our partnering community organizations.
Training and Certificates
UWSU has dedicated its mission to teaching and training gang-tribe and reformed gang-tribe members to replicate the peacemaking practices it has become known for. We give our heroes the opportunity to receive certifications in intervention, prevention, victim support, non-violent conflict resolution, trauma, crisis response, youth counseling, mentoring, anger management, parenting, and domestic violence. We are able to supply this training through our certified members and with the help of our partnering community organizations.