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Peace in the ‘Hood is possible

By Janiah Adams -Contributing Writer- | Last updated: Mar 5, 2019 - 9:36:12 PM

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(l) Robert Jones, a Peace in the Hood organizer, and Niaya Cason speak to participants. (r) Participants work on solutions for their specialized group.

MIAMI—James Mungin II was faced with two choices in 2012— either keep it business as usual or strive to be a changemaker. “Politically, after the Trayvon Martin case, I said enough is enough,” Mr. Mungin said speaking of the Black teen gunned down by a neighborhood vigilante.

Mr. Mungin began to take action—big action— in 2014, embarking on a mission to bring about “Peace in the Hood.” Being born and raised in Liberty City, a predominantly Black inner-city in Miami, a strong love was fashioned in his heart for his home. So why not start there?

Much of the work he’s done since then culminated recently, while making a call to local organizations to truly bring peace in the ‘hood. They met at the Roots Collective Black House, a little shop along 7th Avenue, which is one of Liberty City’s life veins.

Organizations such as Guitars Over Guns, The Black Collective, Miami Workers Center, African Heritage Cultural Arts Center, Dream Defenders and others were present. Participants broke out into focus groups that specialized in topics such as community economic development, education, housing, entrepreneurship and youth. Each group identified issues and came up with solutions to address the problems their communities are facing.

“Some of the things we struggle with is strategy,” said Niaya Cason, a member of Mr. Mungin’s team and owner of Cason Business and Community Strategies. “We broke it into groups of where we want to see a change in our community.”

Valencia Gunder, a prominent Miami activist and Mr. Mungin’s best friend, was also present.

“Keep identifying issues, but also talk about solutions,” she told members of the focus groups. “Think as big as you want to or as small.”

Participants work on solutions for their specialized group.
One purpose of gathering several organizations together is that Mr. Mungin doesn’t want to create anything new but use what’s already there.

“We’re not trying to reinvent the wheel,” he said. “We’re trying to use the programs that’s already in our neighborhood and really give people the access to it.”

One major issue that plagues Liberty City is gun violence. In fact, Mr. Mungin was part of a group that worked to bus over a dozen inner-city students from Miami to Washington, D.C., last March to participate in the March For Our Lives and expand the narrative surrounding gun violence.

“Gun violence was an issue, but also I seen with a lot of organizations that we wasn’t talking to one another,” Mr. Mungin said. “And me being from the ‘hood, I knew that we didn’t get the information all the time. So, the mayor will have an event for health and wellness, but we won’t necessarily know what’s the importance of it. So, I really want to build those bridges so people will see their local commissioner and know who their local commissioner is and talk to them.”

Of course, the goal of the event was to come up with real, workable solutions, but Mr. Mungin also desired to acknowledge the one whom the whole idea stemmed from.

“[DJ Uncle Al] said Peace in the Hood, we got songs to prove it; he said no to drugs,” Mr. Mungin said.

DJ Uncle Al, a Liberty City-born and raised underground DJ, was known for creating a genre of quick-paced music that became very popular. Many Miami-based artists, such as Trina, Pitbull, and DJ Khaled respected him and loved that he loved the community. His ultimate goal was to bring peace to the ‘hood. He didn’t get to see that vision to the end because he was tragically murdered in September 2001.

After getting the consent of Mr. Al’s family and the blessings of various local DJs, Mr. Mungin officially started Peace in the Hood in 2014. Since then, he’s been able to assist those in housing projects. Also, when Hurricane Irma hit South Florida, Mr. Mungin and Ms. Gunder helped residents get access to food and water after their power and water had been out for weeks. They also took the project nationally and helped to feed people in Flint, Mich.

Then, about a year ago, they tried to start the Peace in the Hood group meetings. But a personal matter arose, and Mr. Mungin had to take time to heal himself. But now he’s back on the scene and he’s not stopping.

The meeting wasn’t just for January. Mr. Mungin plans to hold them every month. The meeting on Feb. 21 was titled, “Peace in the Hood: Health is Wealth” and will teach people how to deal with trauma, inform them of some of the health systems that are already set up in their communities, and some methods of prevention.

“A lot of times in our neighborhood, if there are shots fired, police got to show up first before the ambulance,” Mr. Mungin said. “And I think it’s gonna be real empowering to empower ourselves that if your homeboy get shot, now you can save your homeboy life.”

Mr. Mungin, his team, and those who participate in the events have the goal to truly make changes in Liberty City. They’re ready to work the solutions that stem from working collectively, instead of individually.

“We want to build community. A lot of organizations will come in and they blanket the issues and they tell us what our issues are. So this is the time and place for you to come express what the issues are and find solutions and how to take action,” Mr. Mungin said.