By William H. Privett
Peaceful Genesee envisions a community free of violence of all forms, where all people treat each other with dignity and respect, and that develops ways to peacefully transform conflicts. Its partners include Genesee Community College, government, non-profits, the high school, faith leaders and individuals.
The collaborative is working to move from violence to hope in Genesee County, with 58,000 people and 3,300 documented instances of violence and disruption.
Peaceful Genesee has created a replicable process to develop America’s first “Community Commitment to Peaceful Living.” The four-part series at GCC includes: “Understanding the Root Causes of Violence,” “Non-traditional Approaches to Reduce Violence,” “De-Escalating Heightened Tensions” and “Developing the Commitment.” The series features Barry Gan, professor at St. Bonaventure University; Duke Duchscherer of the International Center for Nonviolent Communications; and Kit Miller, director of the Gandhi Institute. Local panels of experts provide their insights, and interactive workshops are incorporated into the program.
This “Community Commitment” will be especially important to employers, whose workforce can be distracted by domestic violence or alcohol or substance abuse, or who may be the victims of one offense or another.
U.S. Attorney William Hochul and former Tonawanda Police Chief Samuel Palmeri, now with the U.S. Attorney’s Office, attended the second session. “I applaud Peaceful Genesee for continuing a community discussion as to how we can live our lives better in the workforce, community and in our homes,” said Hochul. “Because we in law enforcement cannot end violence by arrest and prosecution alone, such efforts are part of the collaboration needed to make our community a safer place.”
Gan called each individual to look inward at the causes of violence and disruption, the “intention to harm another.” Gan said, “Since we all harbor such intents, we prefer to focus on those who act on them most visibly, thereby ignoring the root causes, present in all of us.” He also quoted Mark Twain, “To do good is noble. To teach others to do good is just as noble and a lot easier.”
Creating the commitment at the fourth session, the community will be provided a checklist of steps to implement the commitment to peaceful living.
Everyone has a role in reducing violence and it will take skillful means to make progress, including skill-building programs at all levels, complementing school initiatives with programs like Alternatives to Violence and Nonviolent Communications, even beginning public meetings with two to three minutes of collective deep quiet to focus on the business of the moment.
William H. Privett of Pembroke is moderator of Peaceful Genesee.