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Stop the Violence Summit planned for March 18

By Shavonne Walker

shavonne.walker@salisburypost.com

SALISBURY — The continued gun violence and deaths in the city of Salisbury have prompted some community leaders to create an opportunity for city, county, school, clergy and others with concern to come together for a Stop the Violence Summit.

The summit will take place from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m., Saturday, March 18, with a 9 a.m. check-in at the Tubman Little Theatre on the campus of Livingstone College, 701 W. Monroe St. The free event is designed so that participants can submit ideas, engage others and come up with solutions and does require attendance for the duration of the summit.

Summit coordinator Alvena “Al” Heggins, founder of the Human Praxis Institute and head of the organization Women for Community Justice said it would be pretty hard to just “drop in,” but it is intended for people to take part in the entire summit.

Snacks and lunch will be provided. However, Heggins is looking for someone to partner with to provide lunch for the event.

Heggins said the idea for the summit began as a very organic movement.

“We cannot sit back and watch another young life be tragically taken by unrestrained, unchecked, and unmanaged violence. We cannot let the families touched by the violent death of a loved one have those deep wounds salted over and over again as they agonize with the newly inducted family into the maelstrom of violent death,” Heggins recently wrote in an open letter to city and county officials.

In the letter, Heggins begged officials to sit down and partner with Women for Community Justice and Human Praxis Institute for a summit to brainstorm ideas and come up with solutions.

The Women for Community Justice, formerly Women for Police and Community Peace, is a group that works to build trusting relationships between the community and government that is based on transparency, equitableness, data and cultural/racial respect.

The Human Praxis Institute is a human relations firm that focuses on strategic planning, conflict transformation, community development including training and workshops on diversity and social/racial equity.

Heggins has consulted with the Richmond County Sheriff’s Department, Guilford County Schools, the city of Salisbury and is the former High Point human relations director.

Heggins said the voices of county, city, school, clergy and other leaders are an important part of the summit and critical to the conversation that needs to take place there.

The summit will have two plenary sessions, but the real work will happen during the breakout sessions, Heggins explained.
She said the goal of the breakout sessions are to have a voice from every facet of the community including elected officials.
“The end result,” Heggins said, “is a community action plan to address the immediate and long-term needs of the community.”

She said by using an impact model process they hope to engage in community problem solving and have the community offer solutions.

One of the community partners for the event is the Salisbury-Rowan Latino Coalition, which is part of the Human Relations Council of Salisbury.

Chairwoman Liliana Spears said the group tries to be very inclusive, but the target is the underrepresented of the Hispanic community.

“We all live in the city. We are all neighbors, we need to look out for each other. We need to be part of a solution and be in the mix of how to stop this ridiculous violence going on,” Spears said.

She said she feels, “it’s up to us in the community, the people that live in the community, to put some action to what needs to happen to stop the violence. It’s time to stop forming committees and start doing some leg work,” she said.

“Salisbury is a scary place to be,” said Beth Meadows, president of Salisbury Pride.

Salisbury Pride is another summit community partner.

Meadows said the organization wanted to participate because of the inclusion of young LBGT (Lesbian, Bisexual, Gay, Transgender) people in the community.

She said although it’s not the same type of violence, but there are many LBGT students in the schools who are bullied, picked on and marginalized.

“This particular violence has not been directed at the LGBT community, but violence of any kind has to be addressed head on,” Meadows said.

She said they believe this is a community effort that has to come from everyone and not just one group.

“We all are affected and we should all be involved to help come up with solutions to stop the violence,” Meadows said.

She said if people feel as though their voices can’t be heard then it can’t bring people together.

“We have to speak with one voice instead of discordant voices,” Meadows said.

She said she’s excited this is happening.

The following are convening partners of the summit: Night Crawlers, Salisbury Pride, the Thelma Smith Foundation South Branch, Mission House, Rowan-Salisbury Women Community Action Committee, Salisbury-Rowan Latino Coalition; Truth, Hope, Healing, and Equity Project, Let’s Lend a Helping Hand Inc., Hood Theological Seminary and YouNique Starz.

Sponsors for the event are Livingstone College, Frito-Lay, Human Praxis Institute and East Square Artworks.

It is preferred that attendees pre-register by March 17 so organizers can get a more accurate head count.

To pre-register, email Heggins at alheggins@humanpraxisinstitute.com and indicate how many will attend or for more details on the event.

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