Purdue Peace Project – Part 2

Dr. Marrissa Dick | July 16th, 2018

Photo by JLG Photography

In the May/June issue of Huami Magazine you were introduced to the Purdue Peace Project (PPP). As a reminder we’ll just share a little information about what PPP is and what they will be bringing to our community. The purpose of this locally led peace building initiative is to invite and involve the people who are most affected by violence and crime within their community to work together to create “their own” solutions to prevent, reduce, and/or transform the conflict around them so they can live in a thriving and holistic environment. PPP offers an inside-out, bottom-up approach that involves mobilizing local capacities, knowledge, and resources. It is an approach to peacebuilding that aims to amplify local ownership of conflict transformation. The Purdue Peace Project is not the outsider coming into your community and telling you how to solve your problems. What they do is create the space for you to tell them and each other what it will take for you to live safely and peacefully within your own neighborhoods. They will journey with you as you identify and implement the strategies you determine you need to live holistic and progressive lives within your own community. Remember, they have been successful in facilitating locally driven initiatives in Nigeria, Liberia, Ghana, and in El Salvador where intergroup violence is real and lasts for unforeseeable years. The data has shown that Greensboro is experiencing its own violent conflict with its’ rising Black on Black crimes. With the help of this initiative it is the hope that those numbers can decrease.

Now that you have been reminded of what the Purdue Peace Project is we would like to introduce you to five of the community leaders who have high aspirations of how they believe PPP can be beneficial in our community. Meet Tifanie Rudd, Founder and CEO of M8de2rise, a community organization that offers Supported Employment & Life Coaching Services. Like so many others, she has been affected by crime and violence within our community. She shares, “My heart is heavy for our community. Seeing the increase in homicides and hearing about how violence is rising. In serving individuals whose lives have been affected by the crime, I have also witnessed their struggles to survive. I often listen to countess stories about how the justice system keeps them paralyzed. My goal is to change their way of thinking. However, if the system is contrary to our teaching, they can become confused, discombobulated, and frustrated and we will not see change.”

Rudd believes that by working with the PPP, our community will be able to be restored within the city. “This can be done by learning that there is a caring community, not just a caring person who is willing to join hands. This belief inspires me to push a little harder, bend a little lower, and reach out a little farther. We all know there is power in unity. We’ve seen it in our ancestors and learned about it through history, but now it’s our turn to join forces to create history for the better of our community,” she says.

When asked why she believes crime and violence is so prevalent in African American communities, Rudd offered a clear and precise explanation. “Unfortunately, the Black community has been victimized for far too long and we’ve adopted that same behavior toward ourselves which causes self-destruction. Yes, we’ve learned that we are powerful as a people; however, we have yet to master the ways to use our power in ways that can affect legislative change for our benefit. We need to ask why our young brothers and sisters are joining gangs. If we can find the root cause to that then we can make a change.”

To bring that necessary change, Walker Sanders, President of the Community Foundation of Greater Greensboro, Inc. works with other community organizations whose missions are working with families affected by crime and violence. These organizations include neighborhood groups, nonprofit agencies, faith-based organizations, as well our police department. “In my role at the Foundation, I’ve had the unique opportunity to interact with people in all parts of the city. I have seen firsthand the many challenges families face and their serious economic realities. Despite these dire economic circumstance, I am always inspired by people’s overwhelmingly positive attitude and resilience to move forward,” Sanders said. When asked why he believes crime and violence is so prevalent in African American communities, Saunders response was very compelling. He says, “I don’t feel I am qualified to answer this question. I believe the media does a terrible job of grouping African Americans as only living in communities with high crime and violence. There are many African Americans living in safe communities with low or no crime and violence. In various communities where there is more reported violence, there seems to be a common theme of lower educational attainment figures, higher rates of unhealthy behaviors, large numbers of sub-standard rental housing, and high unemployment. These factors contribute to higher crime and violence. We can; however, work together to change these conditions.” Walker is hopeful that working alongside of PPP some constructive and honest dialogues can take place.

One way of achieving and maintaining constructive dialogue would be through adventurous measures. Britt Lassiter is the Founder and Executive Director of Peak Adventure Ministries where adventure and trust are utilized as a bridge to build relationships with individuals, groups and communities. Like his constituents, Britt is also aware of the rising crime and violence that is spreading throughout the Greensboro community. “I live in a quiet, middle-class development in southwest Greensboro and honestly, crime and violence are not much of an issue where I live or where I worship. I don’t have any personal experience with crime and/or violence but for whatever reason, God called me and PEAK Adventures to serve kids from some of the most underserved, economically challenged neighborhoods in the city. These are great kids, and some have been directly impacted by crime and/or violence. Since it impacts the children we serve by extension, it impacts me, too.”

Britt believes the more we focus on the question of why crime and violence is happening, the less we’re able to come together with a solution. He shares, “This is completely counterintuitive for me. When I was in the IT biz, if there was a major network outage, we would have a Root Cause Analysis meeting to determine exactly what happened and come up with a fix, so it would not happen again. I don’t think we, as a society or as a community, are ready for a Root Cause Analysis meeting. There is just too much mistrust, too many misunderstandings. Nonetheless, I believe the experience and success of the Purdue Peace Project may help us get to the root causes,” he says. “That probably will not be pretty in the beginning but if we cannot communicate across the lines that divide us then solutions will remain elusive.”

In making sure that situations don’t remain elusive Bernita Sims, Executive Director of Welfare Reform Liaison Project, Inc. (WRLP) leads the charge by providing services that will enable economically disadvantaged individuals and families to move toward self-sufficiency through collaboration with the federal and state agencies, the faith community, corporations, other agencies from both public and private sectors, as well as the local citizenry. Bernita shares, “Our agency addresses the small needs cause folk who come to us don’t want much. It’s all about what we do with the least of these in our community and the “Returning Citizens” (ex-offenders) coming back into the community. Our society hasn’t caught up with the fact that there shouldn’t be any barriers once an ex-offender has paid his/her debt. Instead, once these Returning Citizens are released they are unable to get back on track because they really don’t have any skills and they are unable to find employment because of their record. They are not integrated back into the community as productive and viable citizens. Instead, they are black balled and are made to feel as though they have no value. So, if you can’t be productive, if you can’t find a job and you can’t support yourself and on top of that you feel worthless inside what else are you going to do except be destructive to yourself and to your community. WRLP is here to provide that training and that job, so the ex-offender can be re-entered into the community with skills knowing that they don’t have to resort to the same measures that sent them away initially.

Regarding the Purdue Peace Project, “We’re really hoping that they can provide the resources, so we can make a greater impact in the service that we provide so we can reach a larger amount of people. We all can’t be Steve Jobs or Bill Gates but in our little itty-bitty way we can all be impactful and do some things that make a difference. I believe PPP can help us bring that difference inside of our community. We just need to bring the need to the table.”

In desiring to bring a positive difference inside of our community Captain Nathaniel Davis evokes that same passion. A third-generation police officer and ordained minister he is in great hopes that the PPP will get to the root cause of what’s plaguing our community. He shares, “I’ve often struggled with the law enforcement role in the community and how it addresses different trends that are plaguing the community like violence and crime. The traditional police tactic is to arrest but part of what makes me a minister doesn’t always jell with that. Not that I reject it or think it’s wrong it’s just that its often tough to arrest our way out of a problem. I think with the PPP being involved we can repair the people and the community in a holistic way.” Unfortunately, Captain Davis has witnessed the rising crime and violence in the Black community. He says, “In 2017 we had 42 homicides in Greensboro and of the 42 homicides 36 of the victims were African American males. There were 23 suspects and 19 of those suspects were African Americans so you see the disproportionality with race. I’m tired of seeing young African American boys be homicide victims and I’m tired of young African American boys being suspects. I must acknowledge that there are some systemic issues like poverty and socioeconomic issues and there is a great deal of disenfranchisement when it comes to people reentering the community once they have been released from jail or probation. We must be able to come together and find out what’s causing young Black men to pick up a gun and shoot another young Black man. Why are we being plagued by violence like this in the Black community? We must start inquiring of the people who are within these communities who see these issues. When we sit at the table with the PPP the table cannot be full of people who have political interest. We must have the people who live inside of that community because they’re the ones who really knows what it’s going to take to move the needle.”

In moving that needle in the vein of positivity, Dr. James (Jay) Wyatt, Director of Moses Cone Health Trauma Department, is doing his best to save the lives of the victims being rushed through the emergency room doors. In his 18-years of service as the Director of the Trauma Unit, he has witnessed the increase in violence and crime. According to Dr. Wyatt, “We’ve seen a mark increase in the amount of violent crime related injuries. The striking part to me is that most of the people that come in are young Black males either teenagers or young adults. It’s not like I’m seeing a lot of the same kids coming repeatedly these are all different people getting shot but it also seems like it’s some of the same areas when you look at the zip codes.” Dr. Wyatt says that he attempts to reach out to them, so he can get a sense of what’s happening. He earnestly desires to discover what the driving force is behind the violence he sees. While caring for his patients he asks, “Don’t you realize that you’re all Black and you’re killing each other?” He recognizes that his question falls on deaf ears because though he is an African American male he is a physician and he doesn’t reside in their community. “You know I’m just the doctor and the only thing I can do for them is repair their wounds if they’re lucky enough to live. That’s the easy part for me and my team to do but this other part of trying to figure out why this is happing is the difficult part because it’s at another level. To me their concern about life and death is not even relevant. If it’s their time to go then it’s their time to go. Where did that mentality come from? What’s the driving force behind that way of thinking? So, I’m looking forward to working with the PPP, so we can do something concrete in changing that mindset. I’m disgusted with seeing our teenagers die.”

Our community leaders have come together and shared their thoughts on the violence and crime growing in our community. They are all looking forward to the PPP working collaboratively with local citizens across sectors in our community to help reduce violence. What we need from you is your commitment to sit at the table and tell your stories. Share what you believe will enable East Greensboro to once again be the thriving hub of the community as it was many years ago.
Remember, Ephesians 4:25 says, “Therefore each of you must put off falsehood and speak truthfully to your neighbor, for we are all members of one body

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