For many years Ron Johnson has worked to reduce gun violence. Mayor John Cooper tapped him to recruit groups, churches, and NGOs doing intervention work in the community. Small grant up to $5,000 will be awarded soon.

NASHVILLE, TN ­–  Mayor John Cooper is putting $150,000  into a community safety initiative to reduce violence in Metro neighborhoods. The Community Safety Partnership (CSP) Fund is accepting applications from NGOs, churches, and grassroots groups that are working to stop the violence.

“We have over 1100 non-profits in the City of Nashville. And there are quite a few people that are doing this work. They are just quietly doing it right there in their community because it’s what they want to do,” said Ron Johnson, Metro’s first Community Safety Coordinator.

Cooper hired Johnson, 57, because he is “a veteran coalition builder and violence prevention expert, leads the mayor’s community safety efforts as he collaborates with neighborhood groups and Metro Nashville Police”, according to a June 28th press release from the Mayor’s office.

“We’re trying to get those groups who are working in silos to come out and see what we can (do) to support them and we all come together because, you know, there is strength in numbers,” he said.

Johnson said he’s received 7 applications so far but he’s got a list of people he intends to pitch. “I’m going to make absolutely sure that those guys know what’s out there and they have that opportunity,” he said.

The CSP Fund is targeting small organizations with less than a $50,000 budget to underwrite their programs. (See Helping Young Men Make Better Choices, Tennessee Tribune, July 8-14, 2021)

“It’s going to take the whole village. It’s not going to be one group or one organization or just the government. It’s going to take us all….We don’t have to be the best or the greatest friends but we all really want the same thing. We want safety,” he said.

Johnson said that nobody wants to live in a war zone. “None of us are exempt and neither was I,” Johnson said. He played football at TSU. His nickname was “Spiderman” and in his last year there, his mother was killed by gunfire in a North Memphis housing project. He was devastated.

As his mother wished, Johnson graduated from TSU with a degree in health education with a minor in psychology. He became a certified cognitive behavior therapist and started working with people to overcome violence.

“I’m not just saying ‘I hear you or I see you.’ I feel you because I’ve experienced it myself’,” Johnson said. He said there are three elements involved in violent conflict: an aggressor, a victim, and bystanders.

“A lot of the time, we think that the aggressor is the one who has the power because they have a gun and the victim or bystanders are powerless. When you think about the greater number, who has the most power are the bystanders but they don’t have the tools to use their power to bring people together and use that power.”

He said getting together to listen to each other, hearing what one another has to say, is when meaningful conversations begin and that leads to change.

“Listening is not just listening and waiting to respond. Listening is listening to hear what someone has to say, then respond. That is the type of tool people will need.”

An advisory board will recommend grant recipients to Metro Council in July or August.