Urban culture is laced with messages of violence, racism, and division that lead to destructive behavior. Gang violence wreaks havoc on communities, particularly jeopardizing youth, and creates division between law enforcement and residents. Without standing against the violence, communities remain in a cycle of violence and poverty.
Urban Specialists (US) leverages the experience and credibility of ex-gang members, former offenders, and professionals to reduce gang violence and increase community opportunities in Dallas. US takes an inside out approach to transforming community. Urban Specialists capitalize on their unique cultural credibility to foster relationships and collaborative communication to break through the anger and distrust embedded in the local urban culture of south Dallas. It is through their local roots and demonstrated credibility that the Urban Specialists can effectively identify and address the critical issues that are trapping this community in a cycle of poverty.
Urban Specialists takes a three-pronged approach to replacing the destructive influence of urban culture with positive messages. The 3-I Model has proven to reduce the rate of crime and help break the cycle of generational poverty.
- INVADE. US invades the urban culture – laced with messages of violence, racism, and division that lead to destructive behavior – to advance healthy, proactive messages of empowerment.
- INTRUDE. US enters the depths of the community to offer alternatives to lives of crime, gang violence, and poverty. By challenging values, morals, and behaviors, trained Specialists positively influence actions and behaviors of those they serve.
- INSTITUTE. US plays a vital role in translating the needs of the urban community to effectively bridge organizations’ programs and services to the underserved urban community.
The ever presence of Urban Specialists in the community is a crucial factor in the widespread success of the organization. Trained Urban Specialists accompany youth on school buses, at bus stops, and on the walk to school to diffuse violence and tension in gang-controlled areas. Other trained Urban Specialists focus on law enforcement, economic stimulus, and community development. The purposeful combination of these core competencies results in the community’s restoration and renewed vigor. Committed to influencing the lives of community residents, Urban Specialists promote messages of empowerment instead of dependency and peace instead of violence.
Pastor Omar Jahwar, a prominent city leader and gang interventionist, applied his years of experience and success quelling youth violence in the streets of Dallas to found Urban Specialists in 1998. Since then, Urban Specialists has gained the respect and trust of both the community and law enforcement as an effective mediator and positive cultural influence.
Antong Lucky, the founder and former leader of the Dallas 415 Bloods gang, is Urban Specialists’ Master Educator/Trainer. As a young teenager, Lucky was embroiled in a life of crime, gang violence, and drug dealing that ultimately landed him in prison. With the harsh reality of imprisonment and the personal mentoring of Pastor Jahwar, upon release from prison, Lucky joined Jahwar’s efforts to reduce youth violence. With single minded determination, Lucky pursues the vision of transforming urban culture – an example of a true evolution of the mind and spirit.
US has played a key role connecting community, ex-gang, judicial, law enforcement and corrections leaders to repair breaches in the community and develop the best practices for ending youth violence.
Stand Together is partnering with Urban Specialists through the Woodson Center to reduce gang violence and revitalize the Dallas community. The investment will help codify the unique model, increase training capacity, and identify key cities for pilot expansion.