by Daleel Jabir Muhammad
NEW YORK—Andre T. Mitchell, founder and CEO of Man-Up Inc., became the first New York City Gun Violence Prevention Czar. He was appointed to the post by Mayor Eric Adams, the 110th mayor of New York and second Black mayor of the city. The new position was created to address escalating gun violence and other crimes in certain communities throughout the city. The mayor announced some of his solutions to address crime, including intervention and prevention strategies.
Mr. Mitchell, known by many as “A.T.” is a well-known Brooklyn-bred community leader and anti-violence activist. He was tapped by the self-proclaimed, “get stuff done” mayor for his decades of working primarily in the Brownsville and East New York sections of the borough that has been rife with various crimes, gun violence, murders, and gang violence. Mayor Adams appointed Mr. Mitchell to the position in June.
Mr. Mitchell has been a respected community activist and leader that started his nonprofit Man-Up Inc. in 2004 in response to the killing of eight-year-old Daesean Hill (affectionately known as Day-Day). He was fatally struck by a stray bullet as he walked home in East New York on November 17, 2003, with his stepfather and younger siblings.
“You know 18 years ago that’s when Daesean—I called him Day-Day—when he unfortunately passed away. When that tragedy happened, I felt that I wasn’t doing enough. I asked myself, how do we prevent children from being shot at and killed?” Mr. Mitchell fervently recalled. “So, I stepped up. Daesean’s death and the pain that I felt was fuel that I was able to re-channel it and push it into purpose. I had to make the purpose meaningful by going right to the heart of the matter, which was dealing with the community, those who were considered the highest risk, those who were disconnected. Man-Up Inc. didn’t look at them as victims of society but rather really the victors of society,” he explained.
Mr. Mitchell and members of his group were able to speak to those considered high risk because they came from similar backgrounds and understood the realities of their circumstances. “Now that I am the NYC Gun Violence Prevention Czar, we have an opportunity to sit at the table to negotiate with various city agencies and have a meaningful exchange program to meet the needs of our communities, to have the peace and whatever other services that we need to quell the violence for the peace in the streets that we know we should have for our mothers, our fathers, our elders, our children and ourselves,” Mr. Mitchell added.
According to the NYPD website, for the month of June 2022, the number of overall shooting incidents declined in New York City compared with June 2021, continuing the downward trend in gun violence in the first half of the calendar year. And the number of murders declined for the month by 31.6 percent. “There were 355 gun arrests in June 2022, bringing the total number of citywide gun arrests in 2022 to 2,381—a 4,0 percent increase compared with the 2,290 gun arrests through the first six months of 2021,” reported www1.nyc.gov.
“Overall index crime in New York City increased by 31.1% in June 2022 compared with June 2021 (11,073 v. 8,448). Six of the seven major index-crime categories saw increases, driven by a 41.0% increase in grand larceny (4,467 v. 3,168), a 36.1% increase in robbery (1,548 v. 1,137), and a 33.8% rise in burglary (1,279 v. 956),” the site noted.
Mr. Mitchell has been an active supporter in working with Muslims of Muhammad Mosque No.7C in Brooklyn for over 20 years when it comes to working to make communities safe.
“We have been working in conjunction with him as well as with other activists, tenant associations, elected officials, and various other Cure Violence organizations in the borough for a long time addressing the myriad of needs and services” stated Student Minister Henry Muhammad from Nation of Islam’s Mosque No. 7C.
“We have recently embarked on a tour to make our community a safe and decent place to live, to hopefully inspire, motivate and assemble our people with a program or a movement that would give them the desire to join on and to do something for themselves like we are taught by the Honorable Minister Louis Farrakhan,” he added.
“With his newly appointed position of Gun Violence Prevention Czar, Brother A.T. now has the ability to tie our people to the resources needed to help us help the people in our communities more,” said Student Min. Muhammad.
He explained the goals and expectations of the Make Our Community a Safe and Decent Place to Live Tour. “Allah (God) does not change the condition of a people until they first change themselves. Therefore, we are planning on speaking to the nature of our people and begin to work with them from the inside out. The teachings of the Most Honorable Elijah Muhammad under the guidance of the Honorable Minister Louis Farrakhan have the capability of accomplishing this” he stated.
Man-Up Inc., is one of the 35 New York City CMS (Crisis Management Systems) that have been working as violence interrupters in over 17 precincts in the five boroughs of the city. Now that he has been appointed czar, Mr. Mitchell has been tasked with working with the other groups like Life Camp, Street Corner Resources, PeaceKeepers, Brownsville Think Tank Matters, Fathers Alive In The Hood (F.A.I.T.H.), Gangsters Making Astronomical Community Changes (G-MACC) and others on a citywide level.
Al Mathieu, a Brownsville native and executive director of the New York City Crisis Management System in Brownsville called Think Tank Matters, said they are working in conjunction with the new czar, like they have been since 2018 when they were established. “Our services include a mobile trauma unit that goes throughout the community. We have grief recovery coaches that aide in most crises. We have crisis management offices in the Brownsville, the East New York area as well as in the Flatbush section of Brooklyn. We are committed to help relieve trauma and stress in our communities even if it’s to provide clothes and a haircut to attend a funeral,” Mr. Mathieu stated.
“As the first NYC czar I’m able to now help coordinate all of those efforts and bring us all together like never before, because we are all doing some wonderful things working in silos in our respective areas,” Mr. Mitchell explained. He envisions growing and developing the Crisis Management Systems to a 24/7 rapid response team to deal with shootings and to prevent shooting retaliations.
“We’re in the hospitals, we’re inside the juvenile detention centers, we’re in the prisons, the schools and you know we are in the streets, trying to cover all of the bases to prevent violence in our streets. In my role as the czar, I’m just trying to keep it professional. Our work is a community driven approach,” he continued.
“This is no pie in the sky theory but again, a community-driven approach with the help of the mayor, his deputies, his commissioners, and heads of city government.”
Mr. Mitchell explained that the mayor has placed him at the table as a representative of the community working alongside him and Sheena Wright, deputy mayor of New York City for strategic policy initiatives, “to talk about needs so that we can cut off a lot of the bureaucratic fat and get straight to the meat of the matters.
“I am able to get them to understand the needs of our community, prioritize those needs and make sure that we fast track whatever resources that city government has to get it to the neighborhoods that deserve it it and where it belongs. This is literally unprecedented to be in a position like this,” Mr. Mitchell added. “We don’t want promises but real resources,” he added.
Many ‘community’ is residents do not trust politics, religion, law enforcement and others who have lied to them in the past, he pointed out.
“We want resources and representation that can back and support us,” explained Mr. Mitchell.
“I feel confident that I have that support from the community, the New York City CMS teams, and the Nation of Islam here in New York City. We have to make our neighborhoods a safe and decent place to live like Student Minister Henry Muhammad from Mosque No.7C said today, July 23, at the community town hall event here in Brownsville and his call to action,” he added.
“Look, I know the work that the Nation does. I’ve attended the Million Man March in 1995, the Millions More Movement in 2005 and we held a 25th commemoration of the March in New York City in the rain in 2020. I love the Honorable Elijah Muhammad and the Honorable Louis Farrakhan. I love the brothers and the sisters. I love the whole Nation and we will always be partners in this work like we have been doing together for decades.”
Mr. Mitchell explained the importance of the Nation of Islam and other groups’ involvement in community endeavors and for progress. “Within the word ‘community’ is the word ‘unity’ and there is a reason for that. So, I am looking forward to the work that is ahead of me as the czar for gun violence prevention with the help of the other community leaders along with the mayo