We recently launched our 2023 Annual Roadmap Academy Cohort this March. Roadmap Academy brings together a cohort of city and community leaders from across the country to become immersed in Cities United’s planning process outlined by the “Roadmap for SafeHealthy & Hopeful Communities.” The Roadmap Academy aims to (1) Increase knowledge, skills and networks of city leads; (2) Increase collaboration between city leads and community partners; and (3) Increase the number of cities producing and implementing comprehensive, city-endorsed public safety plans.
We kicked off the journey in our headquarter city, Louisville, Kentucky. We were joined by Baton Rouge, Savannah, Kankakee, St. Paul, Mt. Vernon, Houston, Greensboro, Kansas City, and Seattle. Each city brought a small team that is composed of city leads, community-based organizations, young leaders, and sometimes mayors. Throughout our time together, participants honed their knowledge/skill and built community with their teams, other cities, and the Cities United staff members.
We started the Roadmap Academy Bootcamp session with a general overview of Cities United and Roadmap Academy. Additionally, we intentionally took time to reflect on the different journeys that everyone took to get there because there is power in our stories. We talked about the losses and triumphs along the way and the stories of our communities as well.
“I don’t think of my community as violent even though that’s what they label it as.” - Zayvion Cannady from Houston
The second day of the Roadmap Academy Bootcamp included a dive into our Reimagining Public Safety framework. We covered three core components: interrupting the cycle of violence, dismantling systems of inequity, and investing in infrastructure. Afterwards, cities worked with their teams to evaluate how their city is doing where they can improve. While the reimagining public safety framework is a guide, it is important that cities tailor their efforts depending on the needs of their communities.
“We don’t have a package to sell you. We help you make a plan that works best for YOUR city. The investment that is right.” - Synethia White, Cities United Director of Strategic Initiatives
In the afternoon, we held a panel that focused on partnership. Panelists included Amber Burns-Jones, Assistant Director of the Office for Safe and Healthy Neighborhoods, Erica Bond, Vice President of Justice Initiatives at John Jay College of Criminal Justice, Greg Jackson, Executive Director of the Community Justice Action Fund, and Normal Livingston Kerr, Founder of Trajectory Changing Solutions. The panelist hosted a rich conversation with participants about the various partnerships cities and community organizations should consider and how partnerships lead to fruitful results for improving communities.
“You have so many amazing partners across the country. You are not alone.” - Greg Jackson, Executive Director of the Community Justice Action Fund
This conversation touched on the importance of building partnerships that can withstand transitions and impact networks of people in our cities.
“We need to constantly think about who else we can partner with to give our program a foundation and keep it sturdy so that it can live on without us.” - Sherlisa Praylo from Savannah
“You can’t just focus on one person. You need to serve their family and friends as well. You spend a couple hours with one person but they spend the rest of their lives with their family and social networks.” -Norman Livingston Kerr, Founder of Trajectory Changing Solutions
On the third day, participants broke down the Roadmap to Safe, Healthy, and Hopeful Communities. This document is a guide for cities that covers steps to develop, implement, evaluate, and sustain a comprehensive public safety plan. Following the introduction to the guide, we held another panel that focused on the roles and responsibilities of various partners when developing a comprehensive action plan. Panelists included Jwan Moore, Young Leader Fellow Alum from Hampton Roads, Seryn Bentley, Young Leader Fellow Alumnae from Louisville, Janikqua Cutno, Community Partner from Atlanta, Jessiah Paul, Young Leader Fellow Alum from Newark, Marcus Ellis, Board Member from Washington D.C., and Dr. Monique Williams, City Lead from Louisville. The conversation between the participants and panelist involved the importance of showing up for each other and creating space for partnerships with community organizations and young people. The consensus was that these partnerships are vital and that reducing community violence can only happen when we work together.
“Cities United was intentional to make sure D.C. knew that you can’t just have youth there to check a box, but to really be a thought partner in this work at every step of the way.” -Marcus Ellis, Board Member, Washington D.C.
“We want to utilize people, not use them.” - Mayor Shawyn from Mount Vernon
“When Anthony and Cities United first came to us, we started with 12 people 2.6 million, now we have 103 people and 52 million dollar budget. That didn’t just happen. It was a strategic partnership with the community that kept showing up.” -Marcus Ellis, Board Member, Washington D.C.
In the afternoon, participants were separated into affinity groups (city leads, community partners, mayors, young leaders) to discuss their role in the system with others that share similar roles. In these groups, participants were able to speak openly about challenges they face in their role and brainstormed or pulled resources in order to help each other overcome the obstacles that they are facing in their community.
The Roadmap Academy Bootcamp concluded with each city engaged in an individual coaching session with experts from Cities United. These sessions were designed to go over the evaluations that the cities conducted throughout the bootcamp and discuss how to move forward. Cities often focus efforts on downtown or more affluent parts of the city.
“We can’t raise and uplift our community if we are only focusing on one part of the community.” - Chris Curtis, Mayor of Kankakee
However, these sessions focused on immediate and longer-term investments that can be made in the city to those most impacted by gun violence. Continuous investment from all levels are needed to stop the bleeding now and prevent deaths tomorrow.