Pamela Johnson said she was 22 when someone shot her at a rally in the West Bergen neighborhood of Jersey City.
The 48-year-old mother of a then four-year-old girl said the bullet hit her chest. Although she has recovered physically, Johnson – who now considers herself an activist – said survivors of gun violence are stigmatized and suffer from trauma, which sometimes leads to more problems down the road.
“A lot of people look down on victims of violence. They think that somehow we are all responsible for being shot,” Johnson said.
Additionally, she claimed that mental health issues and wealth disparities play a role in violence in predominantly black communities.
“What’s really going to change the game [is] if you give an opportunity to the same people you want, stop shooting,” she said.
Johnson is on a crusade to make her community safer and change the way leaders and elected officials talk about violence in underserved neighborhoods, and she has the support of state leaders, who have allocated millions of dollars to the cause, including a significant allocation of federal funds announced on Monday. .
In 2014, after a Jersey City cop shot and killed Lavon King, 20Johnson co-founded the Jersey City Anti-Violence Coalition.
The grassroots movement grew significantly over the next eight years, and organizers formed a regional nonprofit organization called the Anti-Violence Coalition of Hudson County, of which Johnson is the executive director.
“We’ve been in situations where we prevent and defuse and do some type of mediation with different groups that engage in violence,” Johnson said. “I don’t like to talk about gangs. I say groups.
Through the latter organization, the government of New Jersey has launched a partnership to fund community and hospital-based violence intervention programs, or HVIPs.