O U R M I S S I O N
to support the creativity and leadership of men who have been harmed by street violence and live in a long-term care facility
OPEN DOORS members are Black and Latino men, many of whom have spinal cord injuries from gunshot wounds. OPEN DOORS provides members with professional training, artistic guidance and platforms for their voices . . .
to inspire action for safer, more just communities
Through storytelling, poetry, hip-hop, and more, OPEN DOORS members are deepening understanding about the real costs and causes of street violence and cultivating positive change.
From left: member Vince Pierce, Music Studio Instructor Pavel Bez and member Ramon "Tito" Cruz
Y O U T H O U T R E A C H
Appearing as the OPEN DOORS Reality Poets, members return 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 young people 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 "Var" Lawrence
W O R K I N I T I A T I V E
OPEN DOORS members work with staff to master the duties of managing professional arts and public speaking careers. Each member identifies a field in which to excel. Var Lawrence, paralyzed below the neck, is our in-house designer, making visual content to promote the OPEN DOORS Reality Poets. Lawrence used to sit on his stoop sketching his neighbors. Now, holding a stylus in his mouth, he transforms photos on his phone into striking images like the ones in our Art Galleries.