Chicago Crime Lab’s CVILA Inaugural Cohort Graduates at White House, VP Harris Gives Praise
The University of Chicago Crime Lab’s Community Violence Intervention Leadership Academy (CVILA) made its mark from city streets to the White House with the graduation of its inaugural cohort on Friday, February 9, 2024 in Washington, D.C.
Thirty-one community violence intervention (CVI) leaders from 21 cities across the country were recognized at the ceremony which was the culmination of a six-month educational program aimed at improving the effectiveness of CVI organizations and supporting their mission to reduce gun violence. The event was hosted by the newly-established White House Office of Violence Prevention (OGVP) and capped off an awareness week focused on combating gun violence in Black communities.
Metropolitan Peace Initiatives (MPI) Associate Director of Crisis Prevention & Response Unit (CPRU) Rodney Phillips, Institute for Nonviolence Chicago (INVC) Director of CVI Samuel Castro, and UCAN Vice President of Violence Intervention and Prevention Services Edwin Galletti were among the graduates currently representing Communities Partnering 4 Peace (CP4P). The coalition, convened by MPI, comprises 13 nonprofit organizations focused on gun violence prevention across 28 neighborhoods in Chicago. Its strategy consists of four core pillars: a philosophy of nonviolence, trauma-informed care, hyperlocal collaboration, and restorative justice.
“Being a member of the first cohort, it means something to me because I like to be a part of something that’s groundbreaking and history-making. So being with this group, I learned a lot and was around a lot of experienced individuals in the CVI space. It took my learning of CVI to another level,” Phillips said following the graduation. His cohort took on the curriculum which combined classroom instruction with immersive learning labs located in Chicago, New York, and Oakland.
Former YMCA of Metro Chicago Executive Director Jaunita Pye and Chicago CRED Strategic Initiatives Manager Jason Little were also part of the graduating class. They both previously graduated from the Metropolitan Peace Academy, representing Cohort 2 and Cohort 6, respectively.
Vice President Kamala Harris offered remarks praising the work of CVI and acknowledged the accomplishments of the graduates who are not only putting forth the effort to reduce harm in their cities, but are also investing in the great potential of individuals and families.
“I would say [this is] a historic day. These role models being the inaugural class to graduate are going to now be the ones who can show folks how it gets done. […] The brilliance of this inaugural class and its leaders is the ability to see what can be, unburdened by what has been, and then to make it real in a way that will be replicated around our country,” Vice President Harris said.
The vision of CVI also builds on President Joe Biden’s Safer America Act, which pushes to invest in public safety strategies such as mental health services; victim services; and afterschool, educational, and employment programs for youth. Vice President Harris said she believes CVILA can be a model that supports CVI organizations in helping people heal from trauma.
“One of the residual effects of the violence that we witness and see and that the community experiences is an extraordinary level of trauma, which is inherited not genetically, but it is inherited,” Vice President Harris said. “And unless there is significant intervention that includes putting the resources into diagnosis and treatment, the trauma will continue to be inherited and perpetuate itself in behaviors that are often unproductive.”
Maryland Governor Wes Moore was also in attendance to congratulate the cohort and to further reiterate the issue of gun violence as a public health crisis. Earlier this year, he set forth a proposal to improve public health by creating a statewide Center for Firearm Violence Prevention and Intervention, a first in the nation.
“When you hear pundits talk about [public safety], they talk about public safety with a sense of simplicity, instead of being willing to deal into the complexity in the way that people actually live,” Governor Moore said.
“We need you all. We need you graduates to keep doing what you’re doing. We need you to keep believing in the way you’re believing. We need you to love the way that you’re loving. To all the graduates today, you are not just making history, but because of the work that you are doing every single day you will make gun violence history in your communities.”
Graduates heard additional remarks from CVILA Executive Director Dr. Chico Tillmon, Crime Lab Faculty Director Dr. Jens Ludwig, Crime Lab Executive Director Roseanna Ander, Assistant Attorney General Amy L. Solomon, OGVP Deputy Director Rob Wilcox, and fellow cohort members Myesha Watkins (Executive Director, Cleveland Peacemakers Alliance) and Little, among others.
With a stamp of approval from the Biden-Harris administration, the CVILA will move forward with a new cohort of leaders later this year. The program is a part of the Crime Lab’s Community Safety Leadership Academies (CSLA), an initiative to train the next generation of CVI and policing leaders from across America. For more information or to apply to join an upcoming cohort, visit the CVILA here.