My name is Mitch Morris and I have been a community outreach worker in Cincinnati for many years. I go into hot spots to reach people who have no hope, to offer them something different, and to help them get jobs. My goal is to reduce gun violence on our streets. In my role with the Phoenix Program at Cincinnati Works, I have been able to help hundreds of adults in our neighborhoods. But there is a large, vulnerable group that our regular programs could not reach: youth.
A few years ago, I started a business that hired youth to pick up paper and trash in the neighborhood. They were paid every week to help keep them out of trouble. I partnered then, and continue to partner now, with Ennis Tait Ministries in helping youth ages 14-17, including referring them to Cincinnati Works and other agencies when they turn 18.
To reduce gun violence and crime among youth in Cincinnati, I want to start a traveling support group for youth, with referrals coming from the juvenile court system, Cincinnati Police Department, Public Defender's Office, schools, and other agencies. Youth would participate in a 3-month program, with meetings held two times per month. Each meeting would be held at a different location, such as the Harriet Beecher Stowe House or National Underground Railroad Freedom Center, where speakers would teach them about history, about who they are. In addition to staff at these locations, doctors and police officers would talk with the youth. The goal of this support group is to build hope within these youth and increase their respect and care for each other, ultimately reducing violence among them.
The Harriet Beecher Stowe House
The Harriet Beecher Stowe House has served as the primary location for meetings of the Kings and Queens group. Meetings usually entail food, affirmations from the group leaders, and guest speakers on a wide variety of topics – like insight into the criminal justice system, personal finance, ways to make a difference in your own life, and historical context. History-related topics have been presented by Chris Miller from the National Underground Railroad Freedom Center (African American history of Cincinnati), Reginald Murray from the Taft Historic Site (Buffalo Soldiers), and Christina Hartlieb from the Harriet Beecher Stowe House (Harriet/Abolition/Power of Voice). Guest speakers come to the meetings both in-person and through Zoom. In this way, we are able to bring a larger perspective to the young people in the program. The group has also taken field trips to Cincinnati Museum Center and the National Underground Railroad Freedom Center.
Inside these walls, people have discussed and debated ways to improve their lives and the lives of others. We can honor the memory of the Lane Students and the social reformers of the past by stopping the violence in our own time and committing ourselves to a just and equitable future.
MOMS DEMAND ACTION
Moms Demand Action is a grassroots movement of Americans fighting for public safety measures that can protect people from gun violence. We pass stronger gun laws and work to close the loopholes that jeopardize the safety of our families. We also work in our own communities and with business leaders to encourage a culture of responsible gun ownership. We know that gun violence is preventable, and we’re committed to doing what it takes to keep families safe.
Jill Bowman, City Gun Violence Prevention Lead for the local chapter of Moms Demand Action, said, "As a volunteer with Moms Demand Action, partnering with Mitch Morris and his dedicated team at community events in every single 'hot spot' in the city demonstrates how important it is to support victims of violence as a united front. With Mitch as a partner, Moms Demand Action has been able to reach communities previously unknown to us. Working together expands both of our networks of individuals and organizations working to reduce violence in our communities. I personally consider working with Mitch a privilege.”
PATHWAYS TO LIFE
Pathways To Life is an educational consulting firm assisting high schools with successfully creating and growing their career and graduation pathways. Founder Kathy Goodwin-Williams is a strong advocate for the students she guides, helping to add value to their lives by clearing a path to a state-recognized diploma, and pioneering alternative education pathways that have recently been a point of discussion at the State House. She is also an Independent Mental Health Case Manager where she works with students, helping to remove barriers to education.
University of Cincinnati School of Criminal Justice
Professor John Wright's friendship and collaboration with Mitch Morris goes back years. In support of Mitch's extensive anti-violence efforts, Dr. Wright worked with the Phoenix Program walking the high-crime neighborhoods of Cincinnati, speaking with those engaged in and affected by violence. He has marched with those against violence, worked with city officials to help end violence, and now proudly supports these novel approaches to intervene in the lives of youth.
a message to moms
Over the years I have talked to mothers who have told me they would rather have their loved ones incarcerated than lose their lives in the streets. They feel this is the only option for their child to be safe. I let them know there are other options. These champion mothers are trying so hard to save their children’s lives. I tell them to call the hotline number below and let us give your loved one another option than jail or death. Let us - the Saving Our Youth: Kings and Queens team - help you save your loved one.
- Mitch Morris
"Any time we get the opportunity to tell these kids that they're loved by somebody, we take advantage of that."
local group using flag football to keep kids off the streets amid rising gun violence
- local 12, august 20, 2023
"You don't have to do what I do in the streets. You might have something else to offer these kids, but the thing is to offer that. Offer yourself to help somebody else."
PROGRAM SHOWS TEENS LIFE AWAY FROM VIOLENT CRIME
- local 12, June 21, 2023
“If you got an older person telling you, ‘If someone owes you money or is disrespecting you, this is what you do, this is the kind of life we live.' So, what we try to do is get in there and change that whole scenario.”
More mentors are needed to slow down skyrocketing youth shootings
- citybeat, June 20, 2023