By Dr. Stephanie Myers
For 12 years during months of October, Black Women for Positive Change has sponsored annual days, weeks and months of Non-Violence, Families, Voters Rights and Opportunities. It is our belief that with the epidemic of violence gripping the nation, America should be anxious for new approaches that can promote violence prevention, anger management, conflict resolution and de-escalation of violence.
So far in 2023, the Gun Violence Archive reports that there have been at least 35,275 people who have died from gun violence this year and 50 percent were suicides. However, in spite of our 12 years of outreach to Governors, Members of Congress, Mayors and national leaders there has been very little response to our efforts to start a violence prevention movement.
Not everyone is turning a deaf ear. In September 2023 President Joe Biden created the vital Office of Violence Prevention, and Congresswoman Gwen Moore (D-Wis.) and Congressman Maxwell Frost (D-Fla.) are supporting our efforts, along with Everytown for Gun Safety, National Black Nurses Association, National Association for Community Mediation, 100 Fathers Inc., and some law enforcement and faith-based organizations. But this is not enough. Our nation needs a national grassroots movement with citizens and institutions from all sectors.
We all know America was born into violence with genocide of the Native Americans, enslavement of millions of African people, and violence against indentured poor White Europeans from England, Scotland, and Ireland, during the 1500’s-1800’s. Violence has been used as the preferred method of control, and is showcased regularly in movies, on nightly television, in video games, by law enforcement, gangs and through easy access to guns.
In 2024, we must “Change the Culture of Violence in America, and the World,” by urging use of new methods for peace and reconciliation. For example, this year during the Month of Non-Violence, we focused on “Restorative Justice Peace Circles,” in schools and organizations. These Peace Circles provided adults and children with forums where they were able to honestly express anger, interact with peers, analyze their moods and to find ways to resolve conflicts without violence or suicide.
This year, we engaged over 3,400 adults and children, in 84 activities including Peace Circles, in 15 U.S. States and eight overseas countries. Children in elementary schools in South Korea, Pittsburgh, PA, Houston, Texas, Ivory Coast and in Nigeria, Africa had open non-judgmental discussions about anger they were feeling and how to resolve it. Global peace discussions were held with professionals in the USA, England, Scotland and Canada where health professionals, educators and law enforcement personnel discussed how to stop domestic violence, and how to teach de-escalation of violence. There was even a session on the impact of artificial intelligence on society, and how it can be used to foster global peace.
As we hear daily news about violence increasing in the U.S. and overseas in Ukraine, Israel, Palestine, Sudan, Ethiopia and other countries, we are all alarmed. It is urgent that people come together to implement non-violence, non-militaristic solutions since history shows that more violence, increased punishment, expanded prisons and lack of mental health for suicidal adults and children, are not the answer.
Let’s stop ignoring the discipline of violence prevention and start to overhaul the American culture of violence. We must advocate for funding for programs that establish Peace Circles in schools, make state and local Departments of Parks and Recreation safe centers of non-violence, and build on programs that teach the time-tested philosophies of Dr. Martin Luther King, Mahatma Ghandi, Nelson Mandela and other non-violent leaders.
Sadly, much of the violence in our nation begins at the kitchen table and is the fault of law enforcement that commits violent acts against innocent people. Our children, adults and law enforcement must learn how to de-escalate violence and how to use different approaches to resolving disputes and anger, other than taking guns and shooting family members, co-workers, fellow students, or shooting themselves.
The year of 2024 will be the 13th Year of Non-Violence, Families, Voters Rights and Opportunities. Will the readers of this article stop ignoring violence prevention and take leadership in their communities? If yes, contact us at Bkwomen4poschange@gmail.com or visit our website at www.Blackwomenforpositivechange.org
Dr. Stephanie Myers is National Co-Chair, Black Women for Positive Change. She can be reached at Bkwomen4poschange@gmail.com.