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January 23, 2022

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At North Las Vegas event, congressmen push the case for ‘Break the Cycle of Violence Act’

Participants stress importance of investing in youth programs

'Break the Cycle of Violence Act' Roundtable

Yasmina Chavez

Sean’Jerrion Coleman-Rabb speaks during a “Break the Cycle of Violence Act” roundtable at North Las Vegas library Monday, Sept. 13, 2021.

'Break the Cycle of Violence Act' Roundtable

Derri Daniel speaks during a Break the Cycle of Violence Act roundtable at North Las Vegas library Monday, Sept. 13, 2021. Launch slideshow »

Even after being shot, then-17-year-old Sean’Jerrion Coleman-Rabb had a cavalier attitude toward life.

“At that moment, I was like, if it’s my time to go, it’s my time to go,” said Coleman-Rabb, who was hanging out on a corner near Torrey Pines and Vegas drives in Las Vegas when he was shot in the face.

Eventually, however, he connected with a community group and mentors who helped him change his outlook and the course of his life.

Three years later, he is a youth advocate and a gun violence prevention activist. “God gave me a second chance, and I’m just here to make sure I make right by it,” Coleman-Rabb said.

Coleman-Rabb, 20, recently attended a roundtable discussion in North Las Vegas sponsored by U.S. Reps. Steve Horsford, D-Nev., whose district includes North Las Vegas, and Hakeem Jeffries, D-N.Y., who were promoting their Break the Cycle of Violence Act.

If the bill were signed into law, the Department of Health and Human Services would appropriate $5 billion in grants for programs focused on community-based violence intervention. Another $1.5 billion from the Department of Labor would be earmarked for job training, education and apprenticeship programs.

The bill is still in committee, and House members are expected to make recommendations in the coming weeks, said Horsford, who sponsored the legislation.

Horsford and Jeffries planned the roundtable to hear from young people and community activists about how the money could be spent. Suggestions included making after-school activities, such as sports, more affordable and enlisting young adults with experience on the streets as mentors.

Everyone shared a personal story.

Horsford said the day he and 62 House co-sponsors introduced the bill was the anniversary of his father’s slaying some 30 years ago. The elder Horsford was an employee at a convenience store when he was gunned down.

“I never got the chance to say goodbye to him or for him to see me finish school, start my family, go out and serve this community and now be a member of Congress,” Horsford said.

Jeffries, who grew up in Brooklyn in the midst of the crack-cocaine epidemic, which saw gun violence and homicides skyrocket, spoke about many people ending up in prison or dead.

“It is easier to build strong children than it is to repair broken men and broken women,” he said, paraphrasing abolitionist and social reformer Frederick Douglas.

Investing in youths in at-risk communities can help prevent violence and better respond to the trauma when it does occur, the lawmakers said.

In an interview, Coleman-Rabb said he was placed in foster care after being taken from his birth mother, who was addicted to crack. Later, he was adopted.

“It was hard,” he said. “Growing up, it was hard because I was wondering where I came from. I wondered who my mom and my dad were.”

He eventually “fell into the streets” and after he was shot, he was introduced to Nevada Partners, which provides college and career support for people struggling with poverty and other issues.

Coleman-Rabb is a coordinator with the organization’s WildN-Out Wednesdays, which he described as a program for those ages 16 to 24 that teaches skills in leadership, community service and civil participation.

Horsford said he spent his youth at the same library where the roundtable was conducted, participating in programs that shaped who he has become. It’s crucial, he said, for young people to know their voices are important and that they see themselves as leaders.

“It’s really like being home,” Horsford said.