ROCHESTER, N.Y. — At the newly named Loretta Scott Center for Human Services is the Office of Neighborhood Safety, which was newly created by the city of Rochester to tackle violence in the city.
Dr. Kiah Nyame is the coordinator in charge of the department, a role he was surprised to receive.
“I never thought I’d be the coordinator of the office,” Nyame said. “But whatever I could do, volunteer or whatever to support that, that’s what I wanted to do.”
He says his office isn’t law enforcement, and misconceptions like they’re paying felons to not shoot one another upset him. Instead, he says it’s a resource hub for the community to use in the aftermath of violence.
“We live in a city where we have a lot of resources but they’re in silos,” Nyame said. “A lot of different resource establishments don’t know about other resource establishments.”
It hosts the Peacemakers Fellowship to help firearm offenders find an alternative path forward.
“Many of the young people I deal with today don’t see any future,” Nyame said. “They don’t see a different trajectory in their life.”
And Dr. K knows that road better than most.
“I became strung out on drugs, as a way to cope every day,” Nyame said. “I have 11 holes in my body from four different shootings. Literally, friends have died next to me.”
In the 1990s, he got involved in activism and turned his life around, earning a doctorate, and even writing a book.
“I’m to spend the rest of my days being a part of the solution rather than part of the problem,” Nyame said. “And what that looks like right now is this office, but I can’t tell you about tomorrow.”
But this new chapter of his life is also a tribute; in memory of his son, Jaquan Hill.
“I look at it with a different lens now, but it still hurts,” Nyame said. “And it hurts a lot.”
In May, just days before the city announced creating ONS, the 25-year-old was shot and killed during a dispute, which shook Dr. K.
“I felt like all the years of turning my own life around, getting in a position to raise my voice, going to school and getting a high school diploma and moving on and forward to break the cycle of my family had been for naught,” Nyame said.
But he’s moved past that pain, and is doubling down on combating violence.
“It gave me enough strength to say this may be a way I can avenge my son,” Nyame said.
The office may have just launched this summer, but Dr. K hopes it will be transformative.
“Dr. Anderson always said ‘Come, unity,’ come-in-unity; that’s community,” Nyame said. “So not wearing the same colors or walking the same steps, but knowing what the issues are and using the resources we have to tackle those issues.”