Flint, MI – The Ferris Wheel and its member Rise Up Initiative will host Angalia Bianca, anti-violence author and advocate, on Tuesday, July 6 at 9 a.m. at 615 S Saginaw. Community, political and religious leaders are expected to attend. (Due to capacity, this is by invite only. Other community events will be held in the future.)
As a child, Angalia, or Bianca as she is known, grew up in Little Italy in Chicago. She dropped out of high school and by the time she was 20 she left home, lured to the streets by gangs. Bianca then lived in the CHA ABLA projects known as ‘The Village’ for 25 years. She fought an addiction to heroin for 36 years and served 12 years in prison.
Bianca got sober and started working as a violence interrupter for anti-violence group CeaseFire. After three years, she started working at their headquarters as an international trainer and data and documentation coordinator. Bianca now works with Acclivus Inc., a community health organization, focusing on the health and well-being of individuals living in Chicago’s most vulnerable neighborhoods.
A sought-after authority on violence prevention, Bianca has spoken around the world, received multiple awards and continues to independently train others and speaks regularly on Conflict Resolution, Behavior Change and Violence Prevention. Also joining Bianca in Flint, is Michael McCollum, a former high-ranking official with the Hells Angels.
Dr. Debra Furr-Holden, Associate Dean of Public Health at the MSU Flint campus and co-Chair of Flint Community Task Force on Public Safety has worked with violence interrupters in Baltimore before moving to Flint. ‘The Cease Fire Program has a strong track-record of success at reducing community violence. We had our lowest number of murders in 40 years in Baltimore after implementing this program. Violence interrupters are uniquely positioned to stop the spread of violence and they must have a seat at the table. The Flint Community Task Force on Public Safety looks forward to supporting this work and building bridges for members in the Flint community who want to help wage peace in our great city.’
Bianca will be in Flint because of her friend and colleague, Michael Bolton, a Detroit native, grew up in the ’80s and ’90s, witnessing first-hand how the crack cocaine culture can impact families and communities. He is now recovery coach and harm reduction specialist. Michael is a resident of Genesee County, member in the Ferris Wheel and director of the non profit Rise Up Initiative.
“I have a strong desire to serve. It is easy to fall in love with Flint and its people but not very easy to connect with others because so many things separate us. The Ferris Wheel team and its partners, identify and connect the community to opportunities. We have a similar philosophy but our work takes us in the neighborhoods with people who have different needs,” said Bolton. “Homicides and shootings are on the rise and Bianca’s interruption and training module being utilized in Flint will supplement the great work already being done.”
“Our community has such grit, pride and talent, it’s hard for people to tap into their gifts when they have to deal with one obstacle after another and one tragedy after another,” said Heather Kale, General Manager of the Ferris Wheel. “Part of our business model is to bring individuals together, identifying where partnerships and opportunities can happen. These uncomfortable conversations and vulnerability can lead to amazing things. We just have to be willing to enter that space.”
Rise Up Initiative is a frontline community organization focusing on addressing the root causes of violence and addiction. Rise Up’s outreach team works directly in neighborhoods and with neighbors providing connections to resources needed to deter individuals from a life of crime and drugs.