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Felege Hiywot Center using Elevation Grant funding on documentary that addresses root cause of violent crime

The program invests in grassroots organizations
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Posted at 8:10 PM, Jun 19, 2023
and last updated 2023-08-30 17:40:42-04

For the last 19 years, Aster Bekele has been mentoring youth at Felege Hiywot Center in the Martindale Brightwood neighborhood on the northeast side of Indianapolis.

"I have worked with so many of these children... their parents, brothers, sisters, friends have been killed," Bekele said.

She says losing someone you love to violence is a pain no one can explain. Her son Senteahehou was killed in 2016.

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"Every time somebody gets shot, the wound opens again. It just keeps opening, it just keeps opening," she said.

While she believes they are making an impact on the students who attend Stem camp and year round programming at the center, recently she felt called to do more.

"We need to do something about students who really get in trouble," Bekele said. "Once they get over 18, they have a completely different need. This is where the Elevation Grant comes in."

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Aster Bekele shares details about Felege Hiywot Center's newest project with WRTV's Nicole Griffin.

Felege Hiywot was awarded $150,000 from the Elevation Grant Program. It's a partnership between the City of Indianapolis and The Indianapolis Foundation.

The program invests in grassroots organizations with the goals of community building and neighborhood empowerment.

Felege Hiywot Center is using the funding to work with Blue House Entertainment on a documentary focusing on re-entry and ways to reduce violence in our community.

"It brings up a lot of the issues that lead people into decisions that later caused them to be incarcerated," Dija Henry said.

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Henry is the founder and CEO of Blue House Entertainment. The Indianapolis based company produces diverse films with mental health and social impact themes.

The documentary features 3 men who are re-entering society after being incarcerated. This summer, Felege Hiywot Center will begin sharing the documentary with students and community members at town hall meetings, neighborhood meetings and even church events.

They hope people will take the time to listen to what the men are sharing and ultimately it will lead to more ideas and ways to address crime in Indianapolis.

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"Why not go to those that could speak to them and speak the same language, understand where they are, meet them where they are? And let us learn from them first," Gina Fears said.

Fears is the documentary project coordinator.

"What drew me to them was their positivity," Fears said. "These gentlemen took it seriously.... they want to have a positive impact on life. All of them, even to the youngest, had a personality or just like a gift that they did not mind supporting and giving to others."

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Aster says her team has already learned a lot from the men and it's helping them support both current and former students.

"This is how I got in trouble... this is how I got pulled in... and they knew what to do," Bekele said. "Let's open up because what is happening is affecting all of us, and they know what to do about it. So we need to work with them to be able to really get that solution."

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The Elevation Grant Program will invest $45 million in neighborhoods between 2022 and 2024 to address the root causes of violent crime in Indianapolis.