Before Violence Starts

Last week I was watching the 11 o’clock news – as uncommon as it may be – it’s still the way I consume what’s happening (or rather making news) in Baltimore. It was an all too frequent night with a “late breaking news” report of a double shooting. Admittedly, I held my breath – not again, not here. Inside, I was hoping that at the very least it wasn’t too close to home. That somehow an incident farther away, where drug and gang activity ran reckless, would make it “easier” to make sense of it.Nope, not so lucky. More importantly, not so easy.

conflict

conflict (Photo credit: Adam Prince)

The next line out of the anchor’s mouth was the location of the shooting, and what was known of the circumstances. Just blocks away, in a neighborhood adjacent to mine, it was a murder/suicide, with a small child found on the scene. One of the victims reportedly was a community mediator, presumably well-equipped with resources to peacefully solving problems in our corner of the city.In a city with 35 homicides, not quite a third of the way into 2013, gun violence has become the norm, and an acceptable one – on our streets, and in our homes. When my home was burglarized a few months ago, the first response from more than one neighbor I told was, “That’s it, I’m getting a gun.”

During a period of hyper awareness on the issue, it can be tempting to dial down the noise and let the extremes of each side hash it out. But like so many issues, this matter cannot be solved on either side.

It’s up to the rationale middle to take a hard look at why it seems easiest to solve problems with violence. Do we not have the words to use? Are we frayed from working to much, or having too few basic needs met?

Issues are difficult to parse out in a city where poverty can be pervasive, and in a culture of escalation. How do we understand these causes? What does it take to treat one another with respect, even in conflict?

There are thousands of scenarios, and circumstances, but there is also the constant of local organizations addressing solutions, with incredible results every day. Conflict itself is not a negative thing, but compounded, and in a split second it can become lethal.

Learn more about the following resources – better yet, share them, and support them if you can.

Empowering Youth Voices

Baltimore Urban Debate League

Megaphone Project

Preventing Violence

Center for Prevention of Youth Violence

Violence Prevention Program

Mitigating and Mediating Conflict

Choose Civility Project

Community Mediation Program

Finally, tell us how violence can be prevented where you are, and what resources have assisted your community?

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Michelle Bond

I have worked as a social change agent within diverse communities for fifteen years. My primary focus: engaging communities of people – whether social profits or government; urban or rural; national or global – in development, consensus-building and behavior-changing initiatives. As Vice President at Campaign Consultation, Inc., I am responsible for cultivating relationships, overseeing client portfolios, project management, program design, and staff development. Read more.

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