'Original Gangster' has one goal: peace

Clifford Ryans takes to the streets to spread his powerful anti-violence message.

Clifford Ryans is no stranger to the violence in Syracuse. The 52-year-old is taking to the streets to help find peace in his community.

It starts on the sidewalks, where Ryans greets neighbors as cars honk hello and children stop to chat. “Hi, OG,” one little boy said, walking home from a nearby summer camp.

“You not touching no guns! You not touching no squirt guns! You not touching no toy guns! You not touching no Nerf guns! You not touching no guns at all, right?” Ryans said.

Photo: Rachel George
Children pose for photos with Ryan's sign, helping further spread his anti-violence message.

The little boy promised he is staying away from all types of guns and then posed for a picture next to Ryans' sign that reads “OG's Against Violence.”

Ryans said he wants to leave a lasting, impactful message with everyone he interacts with, especially children.

"I'm just a normal person wanting to make a difference in life," Ryans said.

Growing up, Ryans' mother struggled with substance abuse and although Ryans never was addicted to drugs he became addicted to the violence he saw in his home.

“When you’ve been subjected to it, you grow up doing it,” Ryans said. He smiled happily, applauding his own recognition of being “clean” of violence for more than 25 years.

On average, there are more than 17 homicides a year in the City of Syracuse, according to the Center for Public Safety Initiatives. But in 2015 the city saw its homicide rate climb past that average. The Syracuse Police Department reported more than 20 homicides last year, making it one of the deadliest years for Syracuse.

Having lost his oldest son to gun violence, Ryans makes a point to encourage children in his neighborhood to stay away from weapons and pursue other interests. That is the mission of OG's Against Violence, which started in 2015.

Sixteen-year-old Daquarious “Dae Dae” Powell visited Ryans and updated him on his plans to enter the Job Corps.

“[Society] thinks just because we’re from the streets, we don't have dreams,” Powell said.

Ryans smiled from ear to ear thinking about how Powell is overcoming his own history of violence. The teenager had been to jail seven times for violent acts.

In his efforts to make a difference in the community, Ryans met Nate Slater. Slater is from the South Side of Syracuse and at 25 years old, he is a husband and father of four with an associate’s degree in psychology and human behavioral analysis. Slater acknowledged Ryans as “one of the best activists/mentors for young brothers in the community.”

He recalled a time when Ryans gave his last few dollars for food to help him purchase diapers for his child. Slater was elated someone stepped in to help.

As a one-man army, Clifford Ryans never intended for OG's Against Violence to receive as much support as it has in Syracuse. The organization recently celebrated its one-year anniversary, and within that time Ryans said he has stopped more than 30 acts of violence in the Syracuse community.

"I feel good about where the organization is," Ryans said. "It's made an impact on the city, a statement within the community and soon the nation has gotten wind of it."

Post new comment

* Field must be completed for your comment to appear on The NewsHouse
The content of this field is kept private and will not be shown publicly.