By Greg Burnett
Lisa Rose-Rodriguez, wearing a red blouse that complemented her auburn-colored hair, stood front and center while making an impassioned pitch about planting stems of peace.
Rodriguez was chosen as a finalist in the annual Accelerate Pitch competition presented by the Cleveland Leadership Center. She was there to give a pitch on how the planting of trees can help curb gun violence in the black community.
There were six categories of change that finalists pitched over four evenings last February. Categories included: culture, arts, education and social economic.
Rodriguez was triumphant in her pursuit. Afterward, she was not only barraged with interviews on TV and radio, but she received a check for $2,000 to get her initiative started.
“They were looking for people who want to make change among those categories,” said Rodriquez, an Epidemiologist with Northern Ohio Recovery Association. “My category was social change. I won my category with the pitch for planting stems of peace. My pitch was mostly about planting trees, but there is evidence that planting trees and eliminating blighted buildings, brings about less violence. I’m also thrilled to have been contacted by Case Western University’s Land Conservancy Program for increasing tree coverage in urban areas.”
Her inspiration for this unorthodox model of stopping gun violence came from a similar model used by Dr. Gary Slutkin, an epidemiologist in Chicago. He aimed to stop the spread of violence by incorporating strategies associated with disease control, identifying and treating high risk people, as well as redirecting social norms.
Rodriguez grew up in Shaker Heights and lives in a house next door to the one she grew up in. She attended the University of Connecticut in Farmington.
“The very first course I ever took at the University of Connecticut was about violence and accidents,” said Rodriguez. “I remember to this day the professor said violence and accidents can be predicted in the same way as cancer or heart disease. I was fascinated by that.”
“As a public health trained person, all diseases have an intervention and prevention, and this is called a pathogen model. So, with the incidents of gun violence, I am interested in employing a pathogen model,” she said.
Through her endeavors, Rodriguez continues to spread her mission as a producer on the Black Talk Radio Network. Her current creation is a show called “Victims to Victorious.”
For more insight into Rodriguez’s work, check out the link to her pitch in the competition below: