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Conversations around public safety and criminal justice seem to never end. When you turn on the news, open a paper, scroll social media or listen to the radio, chances are there is a conversation happening about how dangerous things are, how many people have perished, the injustice that pervades the justice system and the dire circumstances behind each tragedy.

A conversation has also begun to happen around whether or not crime statistics, which are often used to inform and legitimize this news as well as enact policies, are as reliable as we’ve been led to believe. However, what is undoubtedly important to focus on are the stories of those who are affected and impacted by the issues surrounding public safety and criminal justice. What is the true, human experience?

In planning our programming for this season, it became clear to us that this should be the focus.

On July 20 we will host a skill workshop facilitated by Duane Ingram of the Citizens’ Police Complaint Board and starting on Aug. 5 we will lead a book club using Ian Manuel’s riveting memoir “My Time will Come.”Ian was arrested at the age of 14 and sentenced to life without parole for a non-homicide crime. Following the book club, is a three-part discussion series (held in September) centering the perspective of citizens with lived experience and those working to create change in our community. Attendees will learn about programs created to prevent recidivism for the formerly incarcerated, initiatives that provide community support in traumatic times and collaborative efforts around repairing the relationship between citizens and law enforcement.

One of the panelists for our discussion series is DeAndra Yates. Yates, the founder of Purpose4MyPain, got into this work after her teenaged son Dre was wounded by a stray bullet — changing their lives forever. DeAndra works alongside families with stories similar to hers and advocates on a national level for common sense gun laws. In a conversation with our staff, Yates said something that underscored how we have decided to approach these conversations. “It takes a lot when the numbers keep climbing,” she said adding that it is her goal to “make sure that the families of shooting victims know that their community is here to support them and that their loved ones’ cases are far beyond just another number.”

The numbers, as we have heard time and time again, are challenging but people like DeAndra and others demonstrate to us that the story doesn’t end at the statistic. There are always opportunities to fight for justice, amplify the voices of the marginalized, support those in grief and imagine a new way of being. It’s more than just the numbers. This is about the people.

Rebecca Hutton serves as President  & CEO of Leadership Indianapolis. Ebony Chappel is Program & Communications Manager. Leadership Indianapolis educates, inspires, connects and mobilizes community leaders to serve and strengthen greater Indianapolis.