A movement moves forward
Milwaukee was a plump and juicy bratwurst of a conference for the National Network of Hospital-based Violence Intervention Programs. Our annual national gathering really is becoming a must-attend event for the violence prevention community, and for the movement to address violence with healing, as a public health issue. The September meeting in Milwaukee was annual conference #7 and our best attended yet, with over 340 attendees from 78 cities. This year’s speakers brought both motivation and perspective and included former Surgeon General Dr. David Satcher, founder of the National Compadres Network Maestro Jerry Tello, and Dr. Thea James, Vice President of Mission at the Boston Medical Center.
Every year the Network awards scholarships to young people affected by violence. Interested youth write an essay about violence prevention and two are selected to attend the conference. One of this year’s winners was 18-year-old Vincent Jones, from Sacramento. He wrote, “People that are looking from the outside feel as if we are animals but we really we are just trying to survive the only way we know how and the only way we are taught. We are no different than your average young men and women that are outside of our community, it’s just that we get the short end of the stick because people feel afraid of us.” The other recipient was Rodrick “El-Rod” Buckworth, 22, from Newark, Delaware. Three years ago, El-Rod was shot twice while trying to protect his mom. Now he uses music and spoken word to bring peace. El Rod wrote, “I’m involved with breaking the violence cycle by music, education and public speaking. When I speak, you can hear the passion in my voice. This passion commands attention, and the audience is intrigued by the story of my life.”
These young people are an important presence at the conference. They bring it a special energy, as do the new or emerging programs who receive technical support from Youth ALIVE! and Cure Violence, as part of the Healing Justice Alliance. For those agencies, the networking and relationship-building represents an irreplaceable learning experience that makes their programs and services stronger. For the more established agencies and their staff who attend the conference, interacting nascent programs is utterly rejuvenating and inspiring. They bring hope and inspiration. They are the brightest sign that the movement is growing.