On Wednesday, April 10th, Over 30 local residents and activists came to talk about how gun violence affects our lives and our neighborhood. The crowd at S.O.S.’s first Community Conversation overflowed the Mediation Center’s conference room.

S.O.S. Program Manager Allen James invited participants to share their reasons for taking part in the discussions about neighborhood violence – particularly gun violence. In attendance were many people interested in supporting peacemaking efforts and improving life in the neighborhood: experienced community organizers, teachers, parents, service providers, the wife of an unjustly incarcerated man, and young men who spoke of their involvement in street violence.

Participants made many insightful statements about how they understood gun violence and what motivates it. They shared observations that young people are often victimized and humiliated in home and school environments, and that they react with behaviors that sometimes include violence. Others pointed to the historical and systemic structures and policies that engender feelings of frustration and hopelessness in the community. Examining why neighbors do not collaborate to care for and interact with youth on the streets as a “village,” one person remarked, “We fear our children.”

The goal of the Community Conversations series is to broaden and deepen our understanding of violence. This first conversation was meant to examine how we experience violence in our lives and how we think about it. Wednesday’s conversation touched on the idea that we only notice extreme forms of violence, like gunfire, and tend not to notice the low level violence that happens every day, like minor insults, expressions of hostility and aggression, gossip and jokes that humiliate others. In our subsequent conversations, we will explore things that each of us can do to improve the quality of life in Crown Heights, and work against all forms of violence.

Reverend Kevin Jones, the S.O.S. Clergy liaison, closed the session with a spiritual message to inspire the crowd. “If we all remembered the golden rule in the bible, if we all treated one another the way we want to be treated, there wouldn’t be gun violence,” the Pastor said. “Love is what we need in this community.”