A Focus on Peace and Restorative Justice: Peace Zones 4 Life Hosts Summer Program

Kenneth Reed and Diane Proctor Reeder

Ed.: Detroit has a long and troubling legacy of institutional violence directed at the community. In 1992 the killing of Malice Green by police officers during a routine traffic stop sparked renewed activism. As a series of deadly confrontations occured in the city, concerned citizens organized the Detroit Coalition Against Police Brutality in 1996. Its stated mission is to “mobilize a powerful, visible, local, national and international protest against brutality and institutional violence. We aim to unite and support those most directly affected by police brutality and to involve other sectors of society in this fight. We will strengthen our communities’ capacity for resistance in a variety of ways, including the documentation of cases of police brutality and murder, educational forums, cultural projects, legal support, demonstrations and media outreach. We will support other organizations and individuals committed to the same goals.

 

Over the years the Coalition began to emphasize the importance of strengthening the capacities for peace and reconciliation within our communities. All too often they recognized that “fights inside our walls” became the basis for deadly confrontations with police and other institutional forces. Educating young people to develop strategies for peace has become an important part of the work of the Coalition.

 

This summer the Coalition brought together a group of young people through their Peace Zones 4 Life program. For six weeks through July and August, young people gathered to learn about issues of justice and peace. Sponsored by The UAW V.O.T.E Center, Coalition spokesperson Kenneth Reed facilitated daily sessions focusing on the causes of violence and how to develop strategies to create peaceful relationships among ourselves. The program, included courtroom field trips and a session on human trafficking. The Detroit-area youth participants ranged in age from 14 to 16.

 

“We are so proud of these young people,” said Sandra Hines, president of the Coalition. “They are thinkers and doers, and they are very interested in making their neighborhoods and communities better places to live.”

 

Part of the curriculum included a “Peace Zones 4 Life” Survey about violence in neighborhoods, homes and the world. At least half of the respondents named police violence against citizens as one of the most problematic challenges faced here in Detroit.

 

We thought it best to let the young people’s own words speak for themselves; they learned much in these six weeks!

 

On what makes people violent:

“Words do not make people violent, but it is whatever the person is internally thinking or feeling that makes them violent.” – Malik Harris, 16

 

On ethnicity and violence:

“The color of your skin cannot define who you are…” – Veronica Williams, 14

 

“I believe all ethnic groups are equally violent but the media chooses to showcase a specific group.” – Azareia Prioleau, 14

 

On how to address violence:

“I would stop the racial divide between everyone. I would make sure that there is no hierarchy, or sense of superiority by one person. I would make sure everyone is happy…we should fight with words, not physical weapons.” – Malik Harris, 16

 

“I would build peace by helping children out if they are in trouble.” – Asa Powers

 

“…mental health is basically seen as taboo…no one wants to speak about it…We as society and community need to break the stigma…” – Malik Harris, 16

 

On the Peace Zones 4 Life Summer Program:

“This program helped me realize a lot of things about myself…I [now] know many ways to defuse a conflict.” – Arielle McDonald, 15

 

“Not only did I start improving myself, I also guided my friends and family.” – Azareia Prioleau, 14

 

On Restorative Justice

“I think restorative justice is a good thing to practice. It can turn people’s lives around for the better. I also think it could be applied to the legal system.” – Kenneth Hollowell, 16

 

Cutline under picture:

Peace Zones 4 Life Summer Program Students Visit the courtroom of The Hon. Wanda Evans, 36th District Court Judge,

 

Kenneth Reed serves as Spokesperson for the Detroit Coalition Against Police Brutality and Peace Zones 4 Life. Diane Proctor Reeder coordinates the organizations’ communications efforts.

For more information on the Coalition Against Police Brutality and Peace Zones 4 Life, visit detroitcoalition.org, or https://www.facebook.com/groups/dcapb/ .

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