[Op-ed] Gun violence survivor and advocate fighting to #EndGunViolence

By: Gregory Jackson Jr., Executive Director at Community Justice Action Fund

I was shot on April 21, 2013, just two weeks after my birthday. When I arrived at the hospital, bleeding out and minutes away from death, I wasn’t met by doctors or nurses. Instead, I was met by three investigators. They saw me as a possible criminal, not a victim. They questioned me about my whereabouts and my actions. That interaction with the investigators was nearly as  traumatic as being shot. When I finally met my doctor, he informed me that I had lost so much blood that I had less than 30 minutes to live. 

When I left the hospital and began my grueling road to recovery, I couldn’t stop thinking about the communities that have been affected by tragedies like the one I experienced. I realized my story was the same as thousands of other Black and brown Americans. That is the moment I chose to dedicate my career to ending gun violence. 

Communities of color are disproportionately impacted by gun violence, and bond over the trauma that follows. I was lucky to survive my injury, but many don’t. Politicians treat gun violence like a political hot potato, but for millions of Americans, this is a recurring tragedy that needs to be addressed.  

Drawing on my past experience as a community organizer – first for the Obama campaign and the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee, and later for Washington, DC Mayor Muriel Bowser’s Administration – I joined the Community Justice Action Fund in 2019 as the National Advocacy Director, where I worked alongside communities, elected officials, community leaders, and impacted residents to advocate for proactive and preventive solutions to end gun violence. By running the 2020 Elect Justice Campaign, I was able to help mobilize over 1,000 volunteers nationwide and connect with 1.6 million voters. 

Recently, I was named the new Executive Director of CJAF. Using my community organizing and public policy background, I’m committed to advocating for community-based solutions to prevent gun violence in our communities.

CJAF has taken a three part approach to battling this deadly epidemic. First, we’re working with policymakers to pass legislation that views the fight against gun violence as a public health issue and invests in community oriented solutions. Second, we’re working to build a network of new and established leaders in communities around the country who feel empowered to share why fighting gun violence is personal to them. And lastly, we’re working to shift the narrative on gun violence by combating the harmful stereotypes and criminalizing coverage of violence in our communities. 

2021 is on track to be the deadliest gun violence year on record in our country, with a 9% increase thus far from 2020. One can draw a straight line from the deadly pandemic that has gripped the world to this increase in gun violence. It’s time to stop waiting on the politicians to do something. We need grassroots activists to rise up and say enough is enough. 

CJAF is the only gun violence prevention organization run by someone like me, a Black man and a gun violence survivor. This fight for gun violence prevention is personal. I know the pain our communities feel each and every time we lose a mother, father, brother, sister, friend, or colleague to gun violence. The CJAF team is dedicated to ending gun violence and honoring the lives of all those we lost on the way. 

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