In These Times Opportunities for Positive Change Abound

Malcolm A. Punter, Ed.D., MBA is president and chief executive officer Harlem Congregations for Community Improvement (HCCI)

The world is in the process of change. The climate is adjusting; the economy is in flux. Our politics, historically reserved as personal preference, are now openly debated and unfortunately, often played out in volatile settings. Many see the days as prophetic in character. The manner in which one interprets this process of change in our world, our country, our cities, or our neighborhood is a choice. We must consider it is our choice to view life as series of negative or positive opportunities—opportunities to change and improve our individual and collective outcomes. The Positive Community magazine, its readers, and contributors have chosen to view our lives from a positive perspective. The belief that we can improve our economic lives, our health outcomes, our spiritual sustainability, our safety, and generally our overall connection with our world is a choice we must make daily. I am inspired by TPC magazine. I am inspired by national nights out and HARLEM WEEK events, as well as economic empowerment events happening in communities nationwide.

I am inspired by the anti-gun violence movement and outreach programs happening in Harlem and the Harlem-like communities throughout our nation. The anti-gun violence movement is a means to preserve the lives of our children and communities from incidents of violence. Collectively, we must continue to work to eliminate gun violence and other forms of violence in our neighborhoods. HCCI continues to join our elected officials, law enforcement agencies, community based-organizations, houses of worship, and residents to work toward the elimination of gun violence in Harlem and beyond. HCCI, with support of NYS Assembly Members Inez E. Dickens and Alfred Taylor, implemented a series of anti-gun violence initiatives in Upper Manhattan between January 1 and June 30, 2022. HCCI reached over 800 youth with these programs and successfully delivered them from incidents of violence.

Health and Wellness strategies are being implemented to provide pathways to more effective and efficient healthcare treatment. HCCI has partnered with national, regional, and local healthcare institutions to address disparities in healthcare, participation in clinical trials, and preparing our community to respond successfully to the next wave of health challenges. This change from a reactive to a proactive approach shows signs of creating more educated consumers and communities. One example is HCCI’s work with the CUNY School of Public Health. The Harlem Strong Initiative (HSI), designed by CUNY School of Public Health researchers in collaboration with HCCI, works to build the capacity of faith-based and community-based organizations through training local community groups to identify mental health problems and make referrals to qualified clinicians. The HSI, a mental health and economic empowerment coalition, seeks to implement a multisector community collaborative for system transformation. This transformation will be accomplished through community collaboration, training of community health navigators, and empirical research.

The post-Covid conditions we witness in our communities, our houses of worship, and organizations through the pandemic, new health challenges, and violence as a chronic health problem present opportunities for positive change. We believe the manner by which you interpret this process of change in our world is your choice. We believe it is our choice to view life as a series of positive opportunities. The opportunities to change and improve our individual and collective outcomes in life are a gift we must not squander.

The change we seek must be designed and implemented by us. Good, positive-minded people, and people who will not accept anything less than positive change are the leaders in every era empowering transformational and prophetic change.

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