SYRACUSE, N.Y. (NCC News) — As a devoted community activist, Clifford Ryan, began his call to action to address violence in the inner cities of Syracuse after it touched his own life.
On July 22, 1999, Ryan lost his son, 17-year-old, Duriel Lamar Ryan, to gun violence when he was fatally shot in response to an argument with a peer. Ryan responded to this loss by making it a point to help prevent this from happening to others in the community.
In 2015, Ryan created his organization, OG’s (Our Generation) Against Violence, to support organizations in place who are already attempting to negate poverty and violence in the city. Ryan has also reached out to individuals known to incite violence.
Ryan focuses on a violence interruption technique in which he physically inserts himself and his sign into situations he feels will result in a fight, shooting, or stabbing. He understands the risk but believes the results outweigh that risk.
“I was in my community walking with my sign and there was a gathering of a lot of youth just hanging out…two individuals got into an argument. From that argument it escalated into those individuals pulling out firearms, and were getting ready to shoot each other,” said Ryan. “I stepped in between them. They knew who I was, they knew what I represent. They had that respect for me’” said Ryan.
Ryan said being able to de-escalate those situations gives him a sense of gratification. Those young kids he encountered have also shown their gratitude for stopping a situation that could have easily turned fatal.
“Young kids who were in those situations, come up to me and shake my hand and say, hey, man, thank you, because I was going to do something that I shouldn’t have done,” said Ryan.
Ryan has also trained himself in mental health and conflict resolution, so he can better serve his community while taking into account the trauma they have faced which he believes incites much of the violence.
“Syracuse, as well as other cities across the nation, are under tremendous amounts of trauma, from all of the violence and poverty we’re facing,” said Ryan. “We’re in a community in which you have a high school student, a friend gets shot and killed, then they have to go to school the next day…they’re traumatized,” said Ryan.
Ryan hopes through his grassroots efforts, kids in the community can learn to channel their grief in different ways.
“That’s what you see me doing, channeling my grief by honoring my son. By making this effort,” said Ryan.
OG’s Against Violence is now working with the mayor and his Violence Prevention Plan to address and assess these issues faced in the community.