FBI honors Stephens

Published 9:30 pm Monday, October 3, 2011

A Suffolk man known for leading the charge against violence in the community received an award Monday from the Federal Bureau of Investigation for his work.

Bob Stephens, co-founder and facilitator of the Community Action Coalition of Suffolk, is the local recipient of the FBI’s 2011 Director’s Community Leadership Award.

Special Agent in Charge Alex J. Turner of the Norfolk Field Office announced the award Monday, shortly before the ceremony where Stephens accepted the award.

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“I’m truly humbled,” Stephens said in a phone interview after the ceremony. “Like they say — to whom much is given, much is expected.”

Stephens formed the Community Action Coalition last year “in response to continued youth violence, juvenile delinquency, lack of responsive prevention and, ultimately, the citizens’ call for change,” according to a press release from the FBI.

Under Stephens’ leadership, the Community Action Coalition was instrumental in launching a student-led, anti-violence campaign known as Be Fight Free in the city’s schools during the 2010-2011 school year.

As part of the program, students formed BFF committees in each school, held Be Fight Free rallies, distributed BFF wristbands and buttons, placed campaign banners in school and asked fellow students to sign fight-free pledges.

“As a result of this effort, students have reportedly become more vocal and willing to reach outside the boundaries of schools and challenge the community at large to address violence,” according to the press release from the FBI.

The FBI Director’s Community Leadership Award was formally created in 1990 as a way to honor individuals and organizations for their efforts in combating crime, terrorism, drugs and violence in America.

Each of the FBI’s 56 field offices hands out an award each year. The winners are later recognized at a ceremony in Washington, D.C.

Stephens deflected praise to others involved in the movement.

“This award really goes to the youth, it goes to the administrators, it goes to people that stepped up and took a stand,” Stephens said. “I just happened to be the guy that was jumping and waving my hands and saying, ‘Hey, you know, we need to change some things.’”

Stephens, who also is involved in a number of other community organizations such as the Suffolk Center for Cultural Arts, said he did not get involved for personal recognition, but added, “I’m still appreciative.”

“This is about bringing communities together,” he said. “The fact that it’s got my name on it is certainly not indicative of anything I’ve done. It’s about what people working together have done.”