Photographer Amnon Gutman has been documenting violence prevention efforts throughout Brooklyn for years. The Trace is pleased to present a portion of his ongoing project, "United We Thrive, Divided We Die," below.

Over the last decade, I’ve documented grassroots efforts to confront gun violence across the borough of Brooklyn. The images show first hand the work of brave residents who tirelessly fight to build safer communities.

Much of this series documents members of several violence prevention groups, like Save Our Streets (S.O.S.), with which I first embedded in 2012, and ManUp. Both adhere to the Cure Violence model, which views violence as a public health problem: A sickness that requires identification, diagnosis, and sensitive treatment. Workers — often formerly incarcerated people and local pastors — routinely canvas in their neighborhoods, respond to the scenes of shootings, hold memorials, basketball tournaments, and public forums for community members. They provide a compassionate space and attempt to alleviate chronic stress. 

Last year spelled the reversal of gains made by many of these groups. In the neighborhoods of Flatbush and Brownsville, I witnessed the impact of national events on the community. Gun violence rocketed alongside the pandemic and widespread civil unrest sparked by the murder of George Floyd in Minneapolis by police. As these communities try to move forward, the work of grassroots violence prevention becomes even more important.

Amnon Gutman

A child plays on his scooter in East New York; Fans cheer on their team at the annual Gersh Park basketball tournament in East New York; Residents dance during a block party organized by ManUp, a violence prevention group, in East New York.

A woman waits for the bus outside the Rockaway Avenue station in Brownsville, a neighborhood that consistently sees high rates of gun violence.

At Peace Week, an event hosted by S.O.S., a child lays on the ground surrounded by a chalk outline, mimicking a crime scene.

Family and friends mourn at the funeral of Theodore Lloyd, Sr., a 23-year-old father of two killed during a drive-by shooting in Flatbush; Community members pour champagne on the sidewalk to honor and remember Spooky, a 41-year-old man who was fatally shot in Flatbush. He left a young son; Family and friends of Clayton Hemmingway, Jr., hold a rally outside the building where the 16-year-old was shot in East New York.

Pastor Matthiew (left) of the God Squad, a grassroots violence prevention group, comforts members of the family of Spooky,  a 41-year-old man fatally shot in Flatbush.

Members of the S.O.S. outreach team canvass the Crown Heights neighborhood.

Members of Not Another Child, a support group for mothers whose children were murdered in New York, pray at the end of their monthly meeting; Residents of Crown Heights demonstrate against violence during a peace march organized by S.O.S.

A participant in the S.O.S. youth program, near his home in Crown Heights.

In East New York, balloons, each with the name of a lost child, are released into the air in a display of remembrance.