M I S S I O N + V I S I O N
Our mission is to harness the creativity and leadership potential of men living in a long-term care facility who have been harmed by gun violence. We envision safe and just communities for all people.
M E T H O D
OPEN DOORS members receive intensive leadership training, work opportunities, artistic guidance, and platforms for their voices. Through the creation and presentation of art—from straightforward storytelling to spoken word poetry to hip hop and more—they are raising awareness and deepening understanding about the real costs and causes of gun violence.
From left: member Vince Pierce, Music Studio Instructor Pavel Bez and member Ramon "Tito" Cruz
C O N T E X T
OPEN DOORS members live at NYC Health + Hospitals / Coler. At the northern tip of Roosevelt Island, Coler houses 800 economically disadvantaged adults requiring long-term medical care. About 5% of this population are Black and Latino men in their 20s, 30s and 40s whose interests and potentials were unaddressed by programming designed for a more traditional nursing-home population. Many of these men had started selling drugs as kids, and wished to use their stories to help young people make positive choices.
What began as a writing workshop in Winter 2015 quickly evolved into OPEN DOORS. The arts-and-justice initiative provides fifteen individuals with in-depth mentorship and other resources to become powerful agents of change in communities where their voices can make the most difference.
I M P A C T
Since June 2016, OPEN DOORS members have published and performed their poetry, worked toward high-school and college degrees, developed computer skills, exhibited their artwork, produced and edited videos, recorded original music, created a podcast, and mastered many of the duties of running a nonprofit initiative.
Most significantly, they have returned to many of the New York City neighborhoods they grew up in to educate youth about the rarely considered consequences of gun violence: bed sores, colostomy bags, and not being able to brush your teeth or tie your sneakers without help. They want kids to know guns lead not only to jail or death—there’s a middle place our members find themselves in, from which these lines emerge:
Only if he had raised his arm about an inch or two / I wouldn’t have to be telling my story to you
I can’t even teach my son how to play ball / Or pick up and run if he needs me at the drop of a call
Is this a punishment for all the wrong that I did? / Now I’ve been sentenced to this wheelchair doing a life-sentence bid — LeVar Lawrence
Healing Justice Circle with H.O.L.L.A. (How Our Lives Link Altogether!) at NYC Health + Hospitals / Coler on June 30, 2017
Front: H.O.L.L.A. Organizer Cory Greene with OPEN DOORS participant Andres Molina