With the events in Ferguson, MO dominating the news and the national conversation, it's easy to feel powerless, and cynical. But let's remember that in communities like Ferguson -- and similar ones all across the U.S. -- there are changemakers for the good championing creative ideas to bring the U.S. to a better place. They're in it to transform patterns in society by cultivating empathy, building young peacemakers, and creating room for dialogue that builds understanding, trust and solidarity. In times like these especially, it is important to remember that there are beacons of possibility who are dedicated to bringing about long-term solutions and societial transformation. At Ashoka, we are proud to support such changemakers and their work.
Rebuilding community and solidarity across lines that divide - Molly Barker, Founder of Red Boot Coalition: Molly became an Ashoka Fellow for her game-changing work with Girls on the Run. The Red Boot Coalition is her new venture. It is a national community-led effort to push past fear and cultural stereotypes and build safer, more trusting, happier and more stable communities. The coalition focuses on rebuilding community and solidarity across all the lines that divide us, and it couldn't be more timely.
Supporting those who suffer abuse at the hands of police officials - Van Jones, Founder of Ella Baker Center for Human Rights: One of Ashoka's first Fellows in the United States, Van launched the Ella Baker Center in 1996 and his first initiative PoliceWatch was at that time the only legal hotline for police abuse survivors in America. Van went on to found Green for All to build an inclusive, national green economy, and is one the country's leading voices on the environment and civil rights.
Stopping gun violence through innovative lessons taken from tackling infectious diseases - Gary Slutkin, CeaseFire: Gary is reducing gun violence in urban American communities by approaching the problem much in the same way public health professionals treat infectious diseases. His CeaseFire model, informed by decades of careful research and collaboration with communities and law enforcement alike, relies on a corps of "violence interrupters" who were former perpetrators of violent crime but now champion disarmament and educate communities about the consequences of violent behavior.
Cultivating empathy and rewarding young peace-builders - Eric Dawson, Founder of PeaceFirst: Eric leads a national initiative to cultivate a generation of peacemakers and to recognize and reward youth leaders in our communities who champion peace. Eric and his team work in close partnership with schools across the U.S. to help young people learn the essential social and emotional skills of empathy, personal awareness, relationship building, and to promote inclusion. He recently launched the Peace First Prize to award young people between the ages of 8-22 for their compassion, courage and ability to create collaborative change.
Enabling resilience through hip hop - Tomas Alvarez, Founder of Beats Rhymes and Life: Tomas founded Beats Rhymes and Life to reach youth of color who have mental health needs. Though creative ways, including hip hop, Beats Rhymes and Life provides them with the tools for self-care and resilience in the face of the episodic trauma and violence so common within urban communities.