According to data from the CDC, homicide is the leading cause of death among African-American males ages 10-24, nationwide. This means that local communities are faced with the heavy burden of how to prevent violence while struggling to understand why it continues to plague the families that become fractured because of the tragic loss of a loved one. Consequently, everyone in the victim's household is negatively impacted emotionally, socially, and even economically in a never-ending domino effect. There seems to be no simple solution to this crisis, but since its launch in 2016, Mayor Tom Henry’s Fort Wayne UNITED initiative has made headway by convening experts and system leaders of the community in health, education, employment, family, faith and law enforcement.
The vision for Fort Wayne UNITED is for every black male in Fort Wayne to be respected and valued and to allow him the opportunity to achieve his full potential.
There are now over ten on-going, successful Fort Wayne UNITED programs and initiatives, including a Saturday late-night basketball program, which provides our young Black males with a safe place during the time that violent crime statistically happens most. Participants are invited to play basketball, engage with local leaders both on and off the court, and take advantage of opportunities like on-site soft skills training, employment assistance and health screenings.
In the Friday Tie Day program, participating students and school administrators wear ties donated by local community leaders, helping them to enhance their internal and external self-image. While these young leaders meet weekly in peer group settings to have dialog around issues that impact them most, they are also assigned a community leader to meet with regularly in order to establish a trusting relationship through one-on-one conversations, job shadowing, and leisure activities. Community leaders are charged with helping our young men build character, perseverance and a strong desire to be successful, responsible, and caring adults.
The Ten Point Coalition is a boots on the ground approach to improving neighborhood safety, pride and overall health through direct neighborhood engagement, promotion of peace and connecting residents to life changing resources. One year after the launch of the Ten Point Coalition, data showed that violent crime and property crime had decreased in the Ten Point Coalition area. Rape decreased by 77%, aggravated assault decreased by 65%, robbery decreased by 62%, burglary decreased by 31%, larceny decreased by 12% and motor vehicle theft decreased by 28%. Most importantly, there have been no homicides in the population of focus (black males ages 14-25) since the launch of the Ten Point Coalition.
The United Front Initiative, an arm of Fort Wayne UNITED, was rolled out in September 2020, during the peak of local racial tension and civil unrest, to provide a safe environment for leaders from all walks of life to learn a shared humanity, a common language and philosophy that changes the trajectory of our community for generations to come through a comprehensive cultural competency program that fosters racial equity, healing and unity. For over 24 months, engaging educational sessions have been offered to organizational leaders and businesses, empowering them with common language, values, and strategic steps that help them to effectively assess their environments, and implement interventions that will enhance their inclusive cultures, motivating people to work together toward community shared goals. As of January 2022, 200 companies and over 8,000 individuals are participating in this effort led by Fort Wayne UNITED.