Ceasefire program have saved lives
A column appeared in the Jan. 18, Austin Weekly News criticizing me for bringing the Ceasefire program to our community to address local crime issues. I understand these concerns and want to take this opportunity to put to rest any myths that Ceasefire is comprised of people unfamiliar with our community, and to assure residents of the 78th District that this program will be an effective way to combat crime.

As state representative, I have worked hard to combat gangs and drugs, and crack down on the sale of illegal weapons. My number one goal is to make our community a safer place for our children and families. I was very excited to help bring Ceasefire to Austin because of its efforts to unite community organizations, local law enforcement, members of the clergy, civic leaders and local nonprofit organizations for one common goal: to stop the shooting.

Ceasefire has proven its worth since its inception in 1995. In the past 11 years, it has helped decrease shootings and killings by 45-50 percent in neighborhoods where it has had a chance to establish itself, such as West Garfield and Maywood. According to a Jan. 20, 2006 article, it has also saved approximately 400 lives.

Ceasefire is not a group of outsiders either. The Ceasefire program is partnering with Youth Outreach Services, which has been working in the Austin community for 17 years. Together, they will help unite the outstanding community groups and leaders we have and foster communication and cooperation for our common goal of cleaning up our streets

Ceasefire is also designed to employ local residents, many of whom have made mistakes in the past, but have turned their life around and now want to make a difference. I am confident that Youth Outreach Services will show us just how effective an organization it is, and implement the Ceasefire strategy to make our community a safer place.

With the federal government failing to renew the assault weapons ban, and illegal guns and drugs flooding our streets, we need to do everything we can to stop this violence that plagues our community. I am looking forward to Ceasefire’s presence, and can’t wait to work with our local leaders and organizations to make it a success

Deborah Graham
State Representative, 78th District

Anti-violence program run by insiders

As the executive director of Youth Outreach Services, which is the organization responsible for the Austin Ceasefire program, I would like to clear up some misconceptions mentioned by James Hammonds in his Jan. 19, Austin Weekly News column about the CeaseFire program in Austin.

Mr. Hammonds’ column implies that “outsiders” are running the Austin CeaseFire program. This is not the case. For more than 15 years Youth Outreach Services (YOS) has steered upwards of 5,000 youth in the Austin community away from drugs, gangs and crime, and helped guide them toward academic, personal and social success. We hope that our commitment to youth and social justice issues in Austin has earned YOS the recognition as an asset to this great community.

As with any YOS effort, the community in Austin has been involved with the YOS CeaseFire program since the beginning. A community group was established to advise on the selection of staff. A community counsel is being formed to create a violence prevention strategy. And as recently as Jan. 14, hundreds of Austin community residents turned out on a wintry afternoon to attend a Youth Outreach Services CeaseFire rally. These examples of ongoing resident participation seem to affirm community interest and support of the program.

Ceasefire has been recognized both locally and nationally as a successful program for reducing violent crime rates. It aims to accomplish the same in Austin. By creating partnerships and collaborations throughout the Austin community, by providing rapid mobilization in response to violence, and by benefiting from the vision, leadership and support of elected officials like Governor Blagojevich and Rep. Deborah Graham, we should aim to not only reduce, but entirely eliminate every one of the shootings and deaths of our young people that occur each year.

Rick Velasquez
Executive Director, Youth Outreach Services

‘Junk food media’

This letter is regarding the absolute disservice to the African-American community perpetrated by V-103 (a Clear Channel station) for the removal of the Cliff Kelley show on Sundays. I have nothing against the bench warmer, Mr. Les Brown. However, his brand of talk is redundant, I can get motivational and inspirational talk from church.

Removing Mr. Kelley’s hard hitting political analysis and his uncanny ability to take complex issues, articulate and frame them in such a manner that the average working stiff can comprehend is an assault on the Black Community’s sensibilities.

Clear Channel’s efforts at dumbing us down should not stand with impunity.

I assert that as younger listeners started to tune into shows of substance like the Cliff Kelley Show, the hours of mind-numbing boopidy-bop and feeding at the trough of mental junk food would become trivial.

A critically thinking market would eventually demand more substantive programming. Since Clear Channel’s bottom line is heavily addicted to hoards of lemmings and Automatons, it cannot have them asking “why should we leap?”

Clear Channel ought to be made to feel the black community’s wrath, as well as any advertisers complicit in this offensive act. Please don’t feed me ding-dongs, ho-hos, and ‘Les Brownies’ and tell me that it’s steak.

Mad as hell, Kevin “B”
West Side