ROOT (Reaching Out to Other Together), Inc. is a grassroots organization based in the District of Columbia, which is committed to advocacy, education and intervention on behalf of homicide victims of gun violence, and their families.
While working towards his doctoral degree at Loyola College in Maryland, Kenneth Barnes, Sr., oldest son was murdered. Mr. Barnes’ personal tragedy became the genesis for his commitment to found ROOT Inc. in 2002.
The claim of ROOT and its supporters is that the current surge in gun violence is a public health crisis. This crisis reaches all incomes, classes and ethnicities nationwide.
Our mission is to galvanize active agencies and agents in targeted communities that service our youth. These are community stakeholders, human and social service agencies, police, media and the business community. The purpose is to work together to address the issues that are the catalyst for youth violence.
ROOT, Inc. founder Kenny Barnes Sr. accepts an award from the National Press Club for his service advocating for gun violence victims.
"We know we can't stop every act of violence, every act of evil in the world, but maybe we could try to stop one act of evil, one act of violence."
THE WHY BEHIND ROOT INC.
In 2001, Kenny Barnes Jr. was the proud young owner of a new clothing boutique on U street. While some questioned his ability to succeed, he persevered and was determined to make a living as an entrepreneur in one of the toughest areas in Washington, D.C.
On September 24th, Kenny Barnes JR. was fatally shot in the face by a 17 year old possessing an illegal handgun and passed away.
After further investigation it was unfortunate to find out that this was not the first time that the young man possessing the handgun had killed; It was the third. The broken juvenile justice system failed to provide the adequate support for this young man and once he was caught he was sentenced to 105 years in prison.
After seeing how the system had failed, Kenny Barnes Sr., an M.S. in Psychology, invested his life savings into forming Reaching Out to Others Together or ROOT, Inc. His mission was to change the perspective of the gun control debate and hone in on the causes of gun violence so that an effective strategy could be formed to end it. His struggle and grief are the driving force behind his work, which others have taken notice of. He has been featured in the District Chronicles newspaper, and in May of 2009, he was honored with the National Crime Victim Service Award by then Attorney General Eric Holder.
Staying true to his ethos, he is aware that the only way to tackle this problem is to reach out to others. He has worked with Mothers Demand Action, operated a community center in the Southeast area of Anacostia, and surveyed youngsters from D.C. about the effects gun violence has had on them.
Through it all, he has discovered the stunning truth about the gun control debate in America: it is not a legal issue but a public health issue. It is an issue that effects everyone, however, coming together and sharing this struggle can allow healing of similar situations, and eventually end gun violence.
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