Left to right: Erik Wilson, Rebecca Levin, Tiffany Williams, Fredricka Holloway, Norman Kerr

Last night I had the opportunity to sit on the panel of a Community Violence Prevention Discussion for college students and community members. Among a few of the things discussed were the root causes of violence, existing programs and resources, the role of key government officials, and the relationships amongst people in the community as well as the police. However, one youth’s question stood out the most because it seems to be a continual reminder of the state of paralysis that many often feel. “With the fact that the problem of violence seems so big, what can we really do?”

It is my hope that people are seeing that there is not ONLY one specific action that people can do. There are many things and a variety of ways that people have and can begin to transform what we are seeing in our communities.

I first began by expanding on one of the biggest root causes because in order to effectively impact an issue you must first learn and understand it, which includes studying the history of it. The fact that our American society was founded on the principals of and has perpetuated violence is one of main things that needs to be addressed. From the killing and treatment of Native Americans over this land, the slavery of Africans to work and build this nation, the treatment of various immigrants be it Japanese (WWII), Muslims (post-911), and Mexican and Latino (over borders and jobs), our country continues to embrace violence and non-peaceful tactics in dealing with conflict and differences. One of the main things to look at is our attitudes and the laws and means to maintain them can no longer be held as a priority over equality, our youth, our elderly, education, and the like. From the top down, we have to pay attention to politicians and those in key positions (judges, state representatives, presidential candidates) that are speaking the language of change versus the language of violence, opposition and difference. One of the key things many of us can do is register to vote, become informed and use the power of voting.

Now, I can empathize with many who may not believe in the current structure. Some don’t believe that voting will help or change anything because they have no faith in the American system. Well, if you don’t utilize your voice and your vote, it definitely won’t. Studying Marcus Garvey, socialism, communism, and a variety of other schools of thought, I’ve come to understand and embrace that there are multiples ways of doing things and no one way is perfect and the only answer. Why not work both within the system and trying to change our pitfalls, as well as think of creative ways beyond it.

With that said, we have seen a variety of ways that people are taking a stand for the violence that we are seeing, including: protests, organizing and campaigns to change everything from gun laws to police enforcement and governmental policies, vigils and prayers, mentoring youth, programs that provide safe havens for youth and communities, looking at countries that have minimal conflicts/violence and educating and embracing similar practices, music and media that spread messages about the community and seek to enlighten and empower people, and much more.

In response to the young man that asked the question about what he could do, I felt compelled to ask him to focus on his current interests, gifts and abilities. We all have things we are passionate about and can be used to address the violence in our community.

Most of us know Joakim Noah as a basketball player who plays for the Chicago Bulls. Even an athlete like him can effect change. Not only does he have his own organization, Noah’s Arc Foundation, and a #RockYourDrop initiative, but him, Derrick Rose, Tahj Gibson, and other players get involved with Peace Tournaments in the city of Chicago focusing on having an avenue for young men and women to use their talent for playing basketball to spread a message of peace in our streets versus picking up guns.

Books & media resources for discussion on violence

Books & media resources for discussion on violence

Catching up with a few college students I've been blessed to work with.

Catching up with a few college students I’ve been blessed to work with.

A young college student, Patrice, at the beginning of our discussion, shared a spoken word piece “A Letter To Obama”, which spoke to her frustration, need for change, and reaching out to our President to address violence and not wanting to see another person senselessly killed. I encourage her to post a video of her piece, because even in sharing this creative outlet, she gives voice to the change she wants to see and has the ability to move and inspire others.

I also want to encourage that we stop tearing down each other and what we feel won’t work. What may not be for you, may be for someone else. Each of us has a distinctive role that we can play and is not meant to be the same. Instead of perpetuating the divide-and-conquer, coming together to discuss our differences, what offenses we have feel, and having an open mind & heart, empathy, a willingness to be understanding is key to having a sense of unity around an issue that impacts us all.

In conclusion, I’m going to continue to encourage all of us to use our unique abilities be it mentoring, volunteering for after school programs, talking to the young men and women in our communities, revamping block clubs and getting to know and embrace people in our neighborhoods, running for office, helping ex-felons get re-acclimated in order to succeed, educating and programs that focus on positive conflict resolution (like Cure Violence & CeaseFire), participating in community meetings and hearings to keep people in office accountable, and so much more.

The worst thing you can do is to sit back and do nothing and if you need or want a list of organizations or ideas for how you can get involved, please feel free to email me at fredinyashia@f7ln.com.

Be encouraged as there is so much that YOU can do!

  1. Tha'r To'tha'e says:

    Incidentally, if you want to remove even one more hurdle from the path of action, it may be reasonable to just post your “list of organizations (and) ideas”; the “email me” step may stand as a daunting barrier for anyone feeling less than comfortable approaching you, even just for this (I assure you, this can, has and likely still does exist for some). Just a though I had in the wee hours of temporary insomnia…

  2. Tha'r To'tha'e says:

    There will be no slowing of the violence without economic opportunity in our neighborhoods. We are in the USA, where the inability to gain/maintain a stable and sustainable financial foothold will quickly cause many, not just to lash out in frustration, but to write themselves off as having a chance (value) in this society. Anger builds quickly, when you’re broke, your mother/parents are broke, your friends are broke, and success is made to look more and more like something you only witness in a TV show or movie. This makes it difficult for those mired in these economically starved areas to believe that education and hard work will remedy anything, much less pull themselves and their family out. Hungry children are proven to be at an immediate and significant learning disadvantage in school, and that is life for so many of our people in the inner city. From this pit of despair, violence is the inevitable spawn.

    I appreciate the efforts of Noah and others to provide distractions from the matters at hand, but unfortunately, these are just that: distractions. I look to the failure of our own Chicago Black Caucus aldermen to bring the level of opportunity needed to begin to curb the destruction of their own neighborhoods. While being so busy trying to get people fired for situations which they, themselves, have done little to allay, they and their immediate thralls don’t seem to be suffering even remotely as much. I know the Rahminator is not hearing any investment in the south and west sides of the city, and I’m sure the “get down or lay down” edict is in full effect. Those conditions did not stop the Civil Rights Movement, but we are simultaneously too close to that time to think we are safe from that level of persecution and too far from it to be willing to give up the little scraps a few of us are allowed to have, in order to properly fight for the livelihood of us all. Stuck in that box are our elected alderman, saying what they want us to think they will do for us, then kissing the ring and essentially “telling Harpo to beat us” (if not asking to beat us personally), once they get in.

    I will say, I hope they pass the recall legislation and extend it to all levels at and below state government, if not just for the future (as it likely will not effect anyone in office right now). We’ve been hoodwinked and bamboozled by our own…

    • Fredi NyAshia says:

      I agree that the creation of economic opportunities for communities plagued with violence is key, as well as reforming our education system, the dismantling of the systems in place that feed into the prison industrial complex which benefits from violence & crime. However, will not go so far as to say that there aren’t other factors or things that can be done to address the issue. Because so many things that factor into the epidemic of violence, there are multiple things that can be addressed in addition to economics.
      I disagree that what people like Noah, otherwise athletes, artists, nonprofits, churches, etc are doing are a distraction. As someone who has had the opportunity in something as simple as playing checkers in a game room with youth. Through that interaction, relationships developed that allowed me to mentor and talk with young people who otherwise may have decided to turn to guns, sex, theft, and other things. But because they had people who cared enough to engage with them, uplift them, and stir them away from the streets that would have them doing things unproductive in their lives, they made better decisions, became productive, got jobs and more. What may be seen as an insignificant interaction in a game room, on a bball court, or in a music studio,…becomes what gives youth hope and belief that they have talents, gifts, are valued and can succeed. For many they are a lifeline, so I will never see those fundamental opportunities as distractions.
      And as far as legislation and our alderman and particularly what has been going on in Chicago, I hope that this is a turning point for us all when it comes to who we put in office and what policies we want to see implemented, to (as Lawrence Fishburne exclaimed in “Do The Right Thing”)..WAKE UUUUP!!

      • Tha'r To'tha'e says:

        Agreed. Unfortunately, those opportunities are too few and far between to stem the swelling tide of violence. The fact that you’ve posted this topic as a current matter make this sadly clear. I only call them distractions, because the most important and gravely necessary issues are seemingly being all but ignored in the face of high profile foundations serving a few young people at a time, while the multitudes fail to receive even that amount of respite and encouragement. We are even distracted by the heinous police shootings and the subsequent calls to change out a few cogs in a machine designed to grind us up and spit us out, over and over again.

        I don’t deny that many of these initiatives are making a positive difference. It’s good to show our youth prosperous paths as alternatives to self-destruction, but actualization en masse will require more, than just programs that will send them home from an engaging and uplifting day/afternoon to the same desperate life situation. Moreover, the programs, themselves, benefit from economic infusion, and many of these programs are subject to suffer under the current state budget crisis. An employed people not only makes everyday life better for our youth, but also helps sustain many of these very programs (through increased income tax revenue or direct contribution).

        The various programs and initiatives are great and have surely saved some lives (I’ve envisioned some initiatives of my own; that’s its own, separate conversation), but they obviously aren’t enough and definitely are not the main focal point to what would be the master plan to correct and heal this dire situation. I understand that it’s not in the best interests of such organizations to delve into politically-charged, underlying issues, and I wouldn’t wish any of them to do so. That’s literally the job of our so-called leaders (the Tactful Tenth, as I called them in a FB rant on this very topic), and to that end, they have intentionally and repeatedly failed us, their own people, to secure and ensure their exclusive survival.

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