By Ahnayah Hughes, Howard University News Service
Washington, D.C.—T.R.I.G.G.E.R. Projects is a new gun violence prevention initiative that aims to change the normalcy of gun violence within communities of color. As the initiative continues to develop, Founder and CEO, Tia Belle, is already planning its next steps.
T.R.I.G.G.E.R. Projects or True Reasons I Grabbed the Gun Evolved in Risks Projects, was started by Belle in February of this year, as a response to the adverse affects gun violence has had on the local youth in the greater D.C. area. The initiative incorporates a film, a program, element, and development and business consultation.
Currently, T.R.I.G.G.E.R has two programs in action: T.R.I.G.G.E.R. Talks and Girl Talk.
T.R.I.G.G.E.R. Talks are monthly community conversations led by youth panelists from D.C. who have been affected by gun violence. The objective of the panelists’ involvement is to be advocates within the community and provide a platform for young people to not only educate, but to heal as well. Panelist, Isaiah Allen explained his role in the discussions.
“I just tell my story. I came from being a part of the violence, to now changing my life and guiding people who want to do the same. The goal of the talks is to really explore the youths’ minds and figure out the ways we can help them heal.”
Girl Talk is a monthly enrichment effort that provides a safe space for young girls to not only talk about gun violence, but their challenges and wellness. Girl Talk focuses on the ‘four K’s’ of self-knowledge, kindness, keenness and a kaleidoscopic vision (being reflective, colorful, and vibrant). Currently, Belle is working to secure a partnership with the Chevy Chase Community Center, in order to expand the program and encourage young girls throughout D.C..
Although these two programs are still growing, T.R.I.G.G.E.R. is ready to take its messages further. The biggest aspiration of the initiative is developing the AIM Academy, a program dedicated to activating innovation within the youth through internships, mentorships, and overall exposure to various causes of community development. Belle expressed her desire to partner with the University of the District of Columbia (UDC) and hold a dual enrollment course where high school students can receive college credit in public health, and sociology. As she continues to develop this plan, Belle is also in the works of creating a kinder enrichment program.
“If I have five year olds conditioned in my youth development curriculum where they’re learning about themselves, their triggers, their emotional intelligence and coping mechanisms, by the time they’re in high school they’re equipped and well-versed in the gun violence prevention industry.”
She continued: “If they are connected to UDC and taking college course work, not only are they combatting the lack of know-how’s about the college process, they’re also receiving college credit. I would like to create a career pipeline. It’s a pipeline for them to later on be advocates and researchers that represents our population. That’s how we change the narrative.”