Members of the YVPRC at the campaign kickoff in May
Members of the YVPRC at the campaign kickoff in May

Staff members from the University of Louisville Youth Violence Prevention Research Center (YVPRC) were invited to be part of a national rally for peace in New Orleans on June 29. The rally was held as part of the 2017 Essence Festival Day of Service.

Billie Castle and Gabe Jones, graduate research assistants with YVPRC, shared the group’s three-year social norming campaign kicked off last month and aimed at reducing youth violence in Louisville. The media/social media campaign focuses on practicing Pride, Peace, Prevention and is aimed at reducing violence by opposing the perception that violence is normal, accepted and expected, particularly among African American youth.

Master P, a rap artist who is part of violence prevention work in Louisville and New Orleans, hosted a National Day of Peace and the Hope NOLA Celebrity Basketball Game during the 2017 Essence Festival. He invited the family of Dequante Hobbs Jr., the slain 7-year-old from Louisville, along with the facilitators of the Louisville Dirt Bowl to take part in the rally.

“We were at Dirt Bowl this past weekend and they were excited about our message and gear and asked if they could take our campaign materials to promote what we’re doing here in Louisville while they are in New Orleans,” said Monique Ingram, MPH, director of the Youth Violence Prevention Research Center. “Participating in this event will be a great opportunity to spread the message, extend partnerships and get more people talking about how important it is to address youth violence at multiple levels, particularly paying attention to social conditions that make violence more likely.”

Castle and Jones represented the YVPRC at the rally, distributing campaign materials, promoting the campaign message and sharing the experience via Facebook, Twitter and Instagram. They also exchanged ideas about strategies for reducing violence and developed partnerships with individuals involved in similar work in New Orleans.

“I hope we can connect the efforts we are doing to the efforts in cities facing similar things,” Castle said. “We are impacted in similar ways with New Orleans in that social context impacts reasons for high crime rates and youth violence.”