Jovan is a Program Manager for OAG’s Cure the Streets Washington Highlands site in Ward 8—he’s also a father and visionary. He manages six violence interrupters and a site supervisor.
Building relationships is central to violence interruption work, which means it isn’t always easy, nor linear. It takes time and commitment, which for Jovan, often involves starting his day at 6am and going to bed at 2am. “I have to play the soft hand of introducing high-risk individuals to outreach workers and violence interrupters,” he says. “It’s about talking them through the process and empowering them to see transformation in their own life.”
Part of why he can successfully empower others is because he’s walked this journey too.
Jovan grew up in the Washington Highlands area. Ten years ago, he found himself in similar circumstances as the people he is now trying to help. Gun violence was all around him. He says, “the neighborhood was always involved in some type of shootout…that affected me. I couldn’t go anywhere without a firearm on me or thinking someone was trying to do something to me.”
But everything changed for him the day his first son was born, noting that “having my first son made me realize that I was no longer living for myself – I was living for him.” He describes the moment he became a father as a moment that changed the entire way he perceived the world. He couldn’t picture life without his son – so he put down the guns for good.
Being a father helped change him but being a father and a visionary helps him change others.
Jovan explained he was recently proud of encouraging a young father to attend his son’s birthday. The father had shared his excitement for his son’s birthday for several weeks, but a recent disagreement with his son’s mother discouraged him from attending. Jovan says he spent some time thinking about ways he could genuinely help this young father. So, he took him shopping. They purchased presents and balloons, and then Jovan drove him to the birthday party, staying outside until he was ready to leave. He says sometimes it’s just about “helping someone show up for their son.”
Jovan and his team continue working to resolve conflicts in the Washington Highlands area. Despite COVID-19, they’ve been able to gather residents involved in conflict on video conferences to talk through their differences and pledge to make their community safer.
OAG’s Cure the Streets uses a data-driven, public-health approach to treat violence as a disease that can be interrupted, treated, and stopped from spreading. CTS is working in six sites with some of the highest rates of gun violence in Wards 5, 7 and 8.