[Press Release and Photos by the Office of the District Attorney of New York]
D.A. Vance, Thrive Collective, Partners Host First-Ever “Art of Healing” Festival in East Harlem in Honor of Gun Violence Awareness Month
Festival Offered Arts Activities Designed to Heal Trauma, Featured Remarks by Parkland Survivor Aalayah Eastmond
Festival Coincided With Office’s Gun Buyback Event in Central Harlem
Pictured: D.A. Vance, Members of the Office’s Community Partnerships Unit, and Community Partners at Art of Healing Festival
Manhattan District Attorney Cyrus R. Vance, Jr., held the first-ever “Art of Healing” festival in partnership with New York City Council Member Diana Ayala and local community-based arts and service organizations this weekend in East Harlem. The festival, held at P.S. 7 M. Samuel Stern School on East 120th Street, welcomed residents and community members from the surrounding neighborhood and encouraged them to use creative arts as a resource to heal trauma resulting from gun violence. The festival featured live music and spoken word performances, with speeches by Aalayah Eastmond, a student-activist from Marjory Stoneman Douglass High School and a survivor of the February 14 shooting incident in Parkland, Florida, as well as the Manhattan D.A.’s Office’s Gun Control Advocacy Fellows: Tavia Armstrong, Kevin Louissant, and Steven Pacheco.
“Gun violence does not only harm victims and their families; the resulting trauma sends shockwaves throughout their entire communities,” said District Attorney Vance. “This weekend’s Art of Healing festival serves as an important reminder that our work as prosecutors extends beyond the courtroom and that, often, delivering justice for victims means meeting with them in their own neighborhoods. I would like to thank my office’s Community Partnerships Unit, as well as Council Member Ayala, Thrive Collective, Children’s Aid, and our other trusted community partners for helping to create this fun, safe, and collaborative space for victims of trauma to heal.”
“In communities plagued by gun violence, individuals – especially youth – are often deprived of an outlet to express their pain, fear, and frustration,” said New York City Council Member Diana Ayala. “The Art of Healing Festival sought to shift this reality and provide those impacted by gun violence with a channel to grapple with their trauma. The festival included painting, spoken word, and other arts activities – all of which residents utilized to convey their emotions. I thank the Manhattan District Attorney’s Office, Thrive Collective, Children’s Aid, and other community-based organizations for hosting this event in collaboration with me. It is my hope we replicate this festival in other neighborhoods affected by gun violence, as we need to ensure communities are healing.”
“The antidote to violence is creativity,” said Thrive Collective Executive Director Jeremy Del Rio. “It’s much harder to destroy that which we have created. By awakening our creative imagination, art empowers us to see beyond present circumstances, heal through our pain, and create worlds that do not yet exist.”
The Art of Healing festival invited community members to use art as a resource to heal trauma resulting from gun violence. Volunteers from local arts and service organizations staffed activity stations to engage children and their families through music, spoken word, mural painting, and t-shirt and button design. Counselors and social workers from the Manhattan D.A.’s Office’s Witness Aid Services Unit were available at the festival, and local community-based organizations also provided information and resources for victims at an on-site resource fair. More photos of the event are available here.
The festival coincided with the Manhattan D.A.’s Office’s gun buyback event in Central Harlem. The buyback, hosted in partnership with the NYPD, allowed participants to anonymously turn in their guns in exchange for up to $200 in prepaid gift cards. Held on June 30, both events also coincided with the conclusion of Gun Violence Awareness Month, which brings law enforcement and community members together each year in June to discuss solutions to gun violence and strategies for building safer, healthier communities.