The Keep the Peace initiative is an annual program that supports nonprofit, community-based organizations and coalitions across the country that have developed unique and successful models for reducing violence in their neighborhoods, especially among young people.

The Peacekeepers and 2 Cent Summer Session in New Orleans received grants this summer, along with organizations and initiatives in Chicago, Baltimore, Cincinnati, Los Angeles and New York. Keep the Peace is a program under Rise to Thrive, RushCard’s community outreach initiative.

“Too many of our young people are dying needlessly in our communities. We must keep up the work to bring about change and provide safe neighborhoods for our youth,” RushCard founder Russell Simmons said. The program provided a $25,000 grant to help create the “Peacekeepers Ground Zero for Peace Program” in New Orleans, which launched July 25 at the St. Roch Community Playground.

“There is nothing greater to eradicate violence than the presence of peace,” said Dennis Muhammad, founder of the Peacekeepers. “As peacekeepers, we are present for peace in the community of New Orleans; we are committed to making our community more peaceful for all.”

The event was a great success, with members of the Peacekeepers providing remarks and 60 community members walking into the designated “ground zero” neighborhood and engaging young people on how to create a more peaceful community.

New Orleans artist Brandon “B Mike” Odums, along with young people from the 2 Cent Summer Session and other community members, have painted a large mural spreading the message of peace in the St. Roch community.

“My elders instilled a sense of responsibility in me that’s only heightened as an artist; we have to do what we can to make our community better,” Odums said. “That’s what I want my art to communicate, that we are the heroes our community needs.”