NEWARK, N.J. – U.S. Senator Cory Booker (D-N.J.) announced today that he will bring Aqeela Sherrills, a longtime public safety activist based in Newark, to Tuesday’s State of the Union address as his guest. Sherrills, who helped found the Newark Community Street Team in 2014, is a national leader in using community-based public safety approaches to preventing violence and supporting crime survivors.
“Gun violence and violent crime demand a comprehensive approach that includes commonsense firearm safety laws, improved community trust in police, and investment in services that expand human potential,” Booker said. “But it does not end there. Aqeela’s profound work in Newark with Mayor Ras J. Baraka shows that community-based violence intervention and prevention programs work. As a former Newark Mayor who has witnessed the savage toll of gun violence in my city, I celebrate Aqeela and the dedicated people and organizations working every day to keep our communities safe.”
“I’m honored to join Senator Booker at the State of the Union address,” Sherrills said. “Centering Community Violence Intervention as a complementary strategy to policing has been my life’s work, and I was so honored to lead the Community Violence Intervention Collaborative initiated by the President in 2021. As a direct result of our work, Newark celebrated another 50-year low in reducing homicides in the city and has become a national model for how mid-size cities can develop coordinated strategies with the community and law enforcement in making our communities safe.”
Formerly gang affiliated, Sherrills helped broker a truce between rival gangs in Los Angeles in 1992. He lost his 18-year-old son to gun violence in 2004. In 2014, he was tapped by Newark Mayor Ras J. Baraka to lead the city’s community-based violence reduction strategy and has worked with the community organizations, law enforcement, and formerly incarcerated people to improve public safety. He served as Newark Community Street Team’s executive director until 2020, when he became chair of the board.
Sherrills is also co-founder of the Community Based Public Safety Collective, which partnered with the White House in 2021-22 to help communities assess their existing public safety ecosystem, identify gaps, and build the capacity to expand programming that saves lives and provides needed services to communities impacted by gun violence.
Since his early days in public service, Booker has seen the devastating impact of gun violence first-hand. He is the only Senator who goes home to a low-income community that is disproportionately affected by violent crime caused by the easy availability of guns. As a result, Booker has been a forceful advocate for common-sense gun safety laws during his time in the Senate. He first introduced the Federal Firearm Licensing Act in 2019. He has also introduced the groundbreaking Break the Cycle of Violence Act that would provide federal grants to communities for evidence-based gun violence intervention and joined colleagues in introducing an Assault Weapons Ban. This month, he joined colleagues in announcing the formation of the Gun Violence Prevention Caucus to promote commonsense solutions to the epidemic of gun violence in the United States.