South Los Angeles Looks to End Cycle of Violence By Addressing Trauma

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As a young man growing up in the Westmont neighborhood of South Los Angeles, violence once seemed like an inescapable way of life for Kevin “Twin” Orange.

In high school, Orange lost his best friend to gang violence, he said. Later, he got caught up in gang activity himself, and narrowly survived a shooting in 2006. Three years later, his brother and a cousin were killed.

“You became immune to homicides, shootings, acts of violence,” Orange said. “We thought that was normal. You’d walk down the street and you’d see candles for somebody who was killed, and you’d just look at it and think nothing else of it.”

This month, Orange, who is now a community activist, attended the unveiling of what he hopes will help bring an end to the cycle of violence and trauma that has plagued many areas of South Los Angeles for decades. On Sept. 5, the Los Angeles County Department of Public Health unveiled its new Community Healing and Trauma Prevention Center.

The center is designed to be a therapeutic gathering spot where community members will have access to counseling, support groups, healing-focused workshops and exercise classes. The hope is that participants will help advocate for positive change in the areas where they live.

The center demonstrates a new approach “to how we do violence prevention in the context of a community that has known too much violence,” said Los Angeles County Supervisor Mark Ridley-Thomas at the opening ceremony.