Darien, “D Black” Jones first connected with the Crown Heights Community Mediation Center via the annual S.O.S. basketball tournament. He remained peripherally connected to the program for a couple years, because he felt like program staff were “pointing me in good directions, helping me out here and there.” After learning more about the program from S.O.S. hospital responders, D Black realized the value of the Mediation Center and came into the office to become a participant. He shared that the actual process of becoming a participant was relatively simple, “all you gotta do is come in and say you need help, or that you know you’re not on the right path, like you gotta be real with yourself about it.” By becoming a participant, D Black had access to all sorts of things—“game boys, the games inside the office, it was a lot of stuff to do [and] it was something to do at the time that was positive, not just a regular, everyday thing.”

During his time as a participant, D Black used his relationship with the community to mediate conflicts as he encountered them. He explained, “I like my neighborhood. I wouldn’t sit around and watch it get violent over nothing.” His conflict mediation skills made it so when D Black aged out of the participant program, he was hired as a Violence Interrupter with S.O.S. Crown Heights. He described his primary motivator for his work as a Violence Interrupter as his community, explaining “a lot of the incidents that happen in the community are because of a misunderstanding…I was a good pick to go in the community, because I know what’s happening, and just share words that maybe the other side can’t hear…I felt like I was a key to fixing a piece of the problem.”

Over the course of November, we’ll be using this space to highlight the stories of the Crown Heights Mediation Center staff, interns, volunteers, participants, and community members. If you’d like to share your story, please email info@crownheights.org or reach out to us on any of our social media platforms. If these stories inspire you to support our work, please visit our website, http://crownheights.org/give/, to join us.