Our team at the Mediation Center has grown and we’d like to introduce one of our newest staff members, Edward McWilliams, Youth Programs Coordinator for Bed-Stuy. Get to know Edward a bit better through the following interview conducted by Anthony, one of our stellar YO S.O.S. youth interns.

How does it feel to live in Bed-Stuy?

It feels the best I’ve ever felt to live anywhere in my life.  I’ve never felt so attached to the community in which I live.  I’ve been in the same apartment for seven years which is about the longest stretch of time I’ve ever lived in any one location.  I walk out my front door and I run into neighbors that I know well and we end up hanging out nearby all the time.

Where are you from state/country?

I was born in Los Angeles, California and lived there or near there for all of my childhood.  I went to the University of California at Santa Cruz and then moved to NYC at the age of 21, 11 years ago from the present date.

Why did you choose this program to work with?

I’ve been working with young people for the last 15 years (pretty much as soon as I graduated high school) in various capacities.  I’d been made familiar with the mediation center and S.O.S through a friend who used to work here. However, most recently I was a booking agent for national touring artists and although it was a pretty cool job and going quite well, after the nomination of the 45th POTUS. I decided that if I had to sell my time, I wanted to do it for something that was contributing to causes that I felt passionate about rather than just accumulating capital.

What made you want to work with S.O.S. Bed-Stuy?

I grew up in communities plagued by violence, I witnessed a shooting for the first time at the age of eleven, right in front of my house.  The issue of gun violence has always been important to me.  In college, I studied American Studies with a focus on the history of African Americans, the Prison Industrial Complex, the War on Drugs and Art as a tool for social change.  I felt like all of my experience and interest is relevant in the work being done here and I’m so happy to have been given the opportunity to contribute.  Also, I’m excited to get to do this work in Bed-Stuy which is my home and where I want to spend the rest of my life.

On the first day of the job how was it?

Rad.  Everyone was nice and welcoming.

What are your plans in the future with S.O.S. Bed-Stuy?

I’d love to create a creative arts lab where young folks gain access to tools and information they can use to build skills that will be relevant for the new economy we find ourselves in where creativity is of extreme value.  I’d like to have a hub for young people where they can learn design, fabrication, production and more.  I’d also, more importantly want it to be a space where they feel safe and can gain access to services they need, make friends and build together.

Have you experienced gun violence? and where?

Yes. And from many angles.  As I said before I witnessed a shooting for the first time at the age of 11.  I’ve had friends and family deeply involved in gangs in Los Angeles.  In 2005 my 11 year old cousin was shot and killed in her home.  I’ve been held at gunpoint twice and harassed by police more times than I can count.

What would be your biggest goal with S.O.S. Bed-Stuy?

No more shootings, no more prisons, no more police.  More jobs, more education, more opportunities, more justice, more freedom, more peace, more love.

Edward can be reached at mcwilliamse@crownheights.org.