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#OTGYpsi: Local organizations work to end gun violence, will hold two events in Ypsilanti

Moms Demand Action Against Gun Violence Washtenaw County lead Rochelle Igrisan at Huron Heights Apartments.
Doug Coombe
Concentrate Media
Moms Demand Action Against Gun Violence Washtenaw County lead Rochelle Igrisan at Huron Heights Apartments.


Concentrate Ann Arbor

Sarah Rigg's Feature Article: Local organizations will host two Ypsi events to promote ending gun violence

Moms Demand Action for Gun Sense in America

Moms Demand Action - Washtenaw County

Rochelle Igrisan Contact Info

Huron Students Demand Action Contact Info

Power of Predestiny (POP) Ministries


Rylee Barnsdale: You're listening to 89 one WEMU. I'm Rylee Barnsdale, and this is On the ground Ypsi. The Washtenaw chapter of the national grassroots movement, Moms Demand Action for Gun Sense in America, is working with a variety of local organizations this summer to put on some events throughout Ypsi about nonviolence and gun safety. The mission behind Moms Demand Action, according to their website, is to fight for public safety measures that can protect people from gun violence and work within communities to encourage a culture of responsible gun ownership. These upcoming events, one at the Huron Heights Apartments in Ypsilanti Township on June 1st, as well as the third annual Stop the Gun Violence Community Outreach event at Prospect Park on June 8th, aim to educate the community on new gun laws and safety, as well as celebrate the lives of those lost to gun violence in Washtenaw. Here to speak a bit more about Moms Demand Action's work and the focus of these events is Moms Demand Action Washtenaw Chapter lead Rochelle Igrisan. Rochelle, thanks so much for being here!

Rochelle Igrisan: Thank you for inviting me!

Rylee Barnsdale: So, Rochelle, let's start with just a little bit of your background. How did you first get involved with Moms Demand Action and what kind of drew you to the mission and the organization itself?

Rochelle Igrisan: I'm a registered nurse. So, for me, gun violence is a public health issue. I luckily have not had a close encounter with gun violence, but I just believe that all families should be able to go to the store or school and not worry about getting shot. There are more than 110 people shot every day in the United States, and another 230 who are shot but are wounded. It's an epidemic!

Rylee Barnsdale: And how long have you been a part of the Washtenaw chapter of Moms Demand Action?

Rochelle Igrisan: I think for about seven years, and I've been the lead for the last two years.

Rylee Barnsdale: Can you speak to how the group has changed over the period of time that you've been a part of it? Are there more members? Are there more folks within the community that you're partnering with? What does it look like? Has it changed over the past seven years?

Rochelle Igrisan: There certainly have been more members. We have over 400 members now in Washtenaw County. I think because there have been so many school shootings, that usually is what brings attention when there's a mass murder that occurs. So, we do have more members. We also have partnered with a number of other groups in the community, groups like End Gun Violence Michigan and Physicians for the Prevention of Gun Violence. So, there's more and more nonviolence groups popping up in the community, and we are working together. And we have worked together to get a number of bills passed last year and signed by Governor Whitmer this past February.

Rylee Barnsdale: And in addition to that legislative side of things, can we talk a little bit about some of the other events that Moms Demand Action has put on? Can you kind of walk me through what those have looked like and what kinds of things were covered there?

Rochelle Igrisan: We do a lot of what I call "tabling" at community events, so things like a Juneteenth, perhaps. We have a table. We give out free gun locks, information about the new gun laws. We have stickers and buttons and all that kind of stuff. Moms Demand Action doesn't say you shouldn't have a gun, but we say, if you have a gun, it should be secured and not available to a child or perhaps to a person with a mental illness. So, really, along with the legislative end, there's a strong education viewpoint of how to keep your family safe.

Rylee Barnsdale: This is WEMU's On the Ground Ypsi. I'm Rylee Barnsdale, talking with Moms Demand Action Washtenaw chapter lead Rochelle Igrisan. So, Rochelle, you mentioned these tabling events that you've participated in. Let's talk a little bit about these two upcoming events this summer. I'd love to start with the event at the Huron Heights apartment complex. Can you give us a little taste of what folks can expect from that event?

Rochelle Igrisan: Well, as you said, there's a number of events going on. This is all part of the National Gun Violence Awareness Day and the Wear Orange Weekend. And it's "wear orange" because orange is the color that hunters wear, so that they're not shot. So, we're starting off on June 1st at the Huron Heights Apartments with a community outreach event. We'll be there, along with the Power of Predestiny Ministries. And it's really about information and resources. The Ypsilanti Library will be there and Ozone House. We'll have information about the Crime Victims Compensation Fund, which is something a lot of people don't know about. We'll be there with our gun locks. So, it's about providing resources to that community.

Rylee Barnsdale: So, this particular event--is this mainly geared toward the residents at the Huron Heights Apartments, or is this a public event?

Rochelle Igrisan: It's a public event. We're having at the Huron Heights Apartments, because I was told that this is a community that kind of fall through the cracks sometimes. A number of families who live there, many of whom have experienced gun violence and loss, this is where we decided to have it. We've never had an event there before, but it is open to the public.

Rylee Barnsdale: And you mentioned working with the Power of Predestiny Ministries organization as well, also based in Ypsi, who work to empower youth in the community. How did the two organizations kind of come together for this event?

Rochelle Igrisan: Well, one of our moms, Joy Girma, is the aunt of a young man by the name of Von Cratic, who was killed on Thanksgiving in Ypsilanti a couple of years ago. And so, she started the Power of Predestiny Ministries. And because she is one of the Moms members, she asked about joining together and having some events. And so, this will be the third annual event to stop the gun violence, to honor survivors and those who have lost their lives in Washtenaw County to gun violence.

Rylee Barnsdale: And you're referring to the event on June 8th, right? You mentioned it being the third?

Rochelle Igrisan: We'll have food and music and giveaways. This one will be a little more lively.

Rylee Barnsdale: I was just going to ask. You mentioned this is the third annual event of this nature. I was curious about things that have changed or maybe other organizations that will be present there, maybe tabling like Moms so frequently does.

Rochelle Igrisan: Yes, we will have some other groups there. One of the groups that we like to highlight is the Students Demand Action. There's a chapter at Huron High School in Ann Arbor. The students show up at our events as well. We have a young man in Moms who was shot in the eye with a ghost gun. His mom is also a member of our Moms organization. But he always comes out and talks about it. He was a high school senior when this occurred, and he lost his eye. And he has continuing health problems. So, I think it's very meaningful for young people to hear him speak about his experience.

Rylee Barnsdale: This is WEMU's On the Ground Ypsi. I'm talking with Rochelle Igrisan, the leader of the Washtenaw chapter of Moms Demand Action. Rochelle, what can you tell me about the impact of the work that you're currently doing in Washtenaw? You know, as of right now, are there any successes or major change that has occurred because of the work that Moms is up to? You mentioned doing the legislative piece of things. From my understanding some of that is more at a national level. But what can we see here in Washtenaw now because of Moms Demand Action?

Rochelle Igrisan: That's a tough question. I think most of our effect has been more on a state level with the new laws that have passed. I'd like to believe that we've heightened the awareness about gun violence because we've worked with the sheriff's department. We work with other community organizations to talk about how dangerous guns are. Moms Demand Action has an education program called "Be Smart," and it's actually a program for adults. It's about talking to kids about guns and gun safety. I recently did a talk with the University of Michigan pediatric residents, and I talked to them about asking about gun safety in the home, much like a physician might ask, "Does your child have any allergies?" or "Do you keep your cleaning products locked up, so the child couldn't get them?" "Is there a gun in your home and is it secured?" So, we've tried to do a lot of education and just heightened awareness of how prevalent gun violence is. There are over 1200 people in Michigan that die every year from gun deaths. And I think we almost become numb from the number of reports we see. Certainly, Oxford and Michigan State were wake-up calls, I think, for the people of Michigan. So, that's why we keep working at it. There's still work to be done.

Rylee Barnsdale: Sure. But there's growing numbers, at least in this particular chapter too, so that advocacy work is definitely touching folks, sounds like, all across the state too.

Rochelle Igrisan: Yes.

Rylee Barnsdale: And I'll wrap up our conversation by asking a little bit about the future. Obviously, folks can look forward to these upcoming events in June. But what else is in store, at least in Ypsi, from Moms Demand Action?

Rochelle Igrisan: Well, we do have one more event at the end of June, which is "Silence the Violence," which is a part of a statewide group from End Gun Violence in Michigan. We're actually going to be having that at Saint Aidan's Episcopal Church in Ann Arbor on Saturday, June 29th. And people like Washtenaw County Prosecutor Eli Savit will be there to talk about the new red flag laws or the extreme risk protection orders. But we'll be doing a lot of tabling in Ypsi. We're going to be at the Bike Rodeo at EMU on June 15th. We're going to be at Jazz in the Parking Lot. We will be at Juneteenth. We'll be at the Back to School fair. We'll be at Summer Fest at Parkridge. So, we've got a busy summer planned.

Rylee Barnsdale: It sounds like it. Well, Rochelle, thank you so much for chatting with me today! And thank you as well as the other members of Moms Demand Action for keeping our community educated and hopefully safer!

Rochelle Igrisan: You're very welcome! It's been my honor!

Rylee Barnsdale: For more information on today's topic and links to the full article, visit our website at wemu.org. On the Ground Ypsi is brought to you in partnership with Concentrate Media. I'm Rylee Barnsdale, and this is your community NPR station, 89 one WEMU FM, Ypsilanti.

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Concentrate Media's Rylee Barnsdale is a Michigan native and longtime Washtenaw County resident. She wants to use her journalistic experience from her time at Eastern Michigan University writing for the Eastern Echo to tell the stories of Washtenaw County residents that need to be heard.
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