ATLANTA—The majority Black West End is one of Atlanta’s oldest neighborhoods. It is rife with Afrocentrism and a hub for Black consciousness. But it is not immune to the harmful effects of gun violence. In 2022, Atlanta police investigated a total of 170 homicides in the city, a record high since 1996.
The Young Generation (YG) Movement is one of the organizations actively working to stop gun violence in Atlanta and in the West End community. On Sept. 17, the organization held their second annual “Day of Wellness” and “Stop the Violence” rally, a gathering aimed at promoting holistic solutions to address gun violence. The event took place at YG Urban Cafe in the West End.
“Last year, there were 300 shots fired right here on this block, and so it motivated me to put together an event to heal the community. And so this event came from inspiration on how can I heal my community with a holistic approach,” Dr. Julious Khalid, CEO of YG Movement and YG Urban Cafe, said to The Final Call.
For the last 10 years, through his organization, Dr. Khalid has been working with Black youth through community outreach programs, an agricultural program and community gardens, and other programs. He recently opened YG Urban Cafe, a plant-based restaurant and wellness center with spaces for meditation, prayer and yoga.
“We’re providing a safe place for the people in the community to come learn and join forces,” he said.
The “Day of Wellness” event opened with a breathing and healing exercise. Atlanta councilmember Jason Dozier and Fulton County Commissioner Natalie Hall were present and addressed attendees.
Wellness revolutionary Amirah Ansaar spoke on the importance of ensuring “our homes became wellness centers, that we utilize things that are natural to help support us in our day-to-day lives.”
She shared that the healing of the mind is the most important thing to focus on.
Jeanette Sellers, owner of Wadada Healthy Market and Juice Bar, stressed the importance of culture.
“We have to go back and get our culture, because that is what is going to be our salvation,” she said. “Your culture is your immune system.”
Dr. Khalid shared his personal journey of going from incarceration to getting his certification as an herbalist and Indigenous doctor. He led the event’s participants in a community cleanup. Young and old circled the block surrounding the urban cafe, showered peace and blessings on the homeless, and acknowledged the Black businesses on the route.
Upon returning to the cafe, wellness juice beverages were given away, as music played in the background. For Dr. Khalid, that’s the solution to stopping the violence, because “health and wellness is the root cause to any dis-ease.”
“Just doing exactly what we did today, going around the block, smudging the block, changing the vibration and energy, speaking prayers and life to the community, letting the community know that we love them and we have their support,” he said to The Final Call. “In order for us to do anything, we have to love on ourselves, first. So, loving on ourselves, which is meditation, yoga, like we offer here at the YG Urban Cafe, eating healthy foods, like we offer here, and then raising the vibration.”
A person carrying a gun to commit a crime is not thinking about how much they love themselves, he said.
“Because if you love yourself, you’ll have love for your brother and your sister. You’ll think differently. So, eating healthy, meditation, yoga, changing your vibration, your energy, that within itself, listening to different music; small little things equal up to something big,” he added. “We can create more opportunities because jobs do stop bullets sometimes. Opportunities do stop a person from making a bad, unconscious decision. So having more opportunities available for the community.”
Ahneeahm Ben Khazriel, president and co-founder of Youth Aiding Humanity Inc., attended the “Day of Wellness” and has partnered with the YG Movement on several initiatives. He explained the psychology of the Black community that leads to violence as an autoimmune disorder, attacking what’s good and protecting what’s bad.
“You need places and spaces where you can gather to raise that awareness, to help develop the consciousness required to choose life over death and to create an environment which supports those positive behavior changes,” he said to The Final Call.
He rejected the thinking that there is a “magical solution that you can just pour onto the community,” but proposed the creation of alternatives to the current cycles people live in.
“You can tell somebody, don’t do drugs or don’t sell drugs, but that’s the main source. What are you replacing it with?” he questioned. “On a deeper level, we really get into the root causes. And then we say, how do we actually address the neurological underpinnings of this violence?”
He stressed the importance of children having positive reinforcement and looking at the issues of violence in the Black community as a spiritual problem. “Choose life, not just in terms of the food that you eat, but then going into a holistic range of considerations, value and sensitivity towards life, where that spirit that fuels so much of the violence inside of people can be addressed,” he said.
He also advocated for the younger generation of adults to fulfill the roles of actively working in the community for those coming behind.
“Now, the young people are looking at us, and we can’t blame anybody who came before us for what we’re failing to do for those that come after,” he said. “So focusing on youth development, leadership training, skill building, networking, and creating a strong social support group for new leaders is exactly what we’re here to do.”