The art of communication is critical in fostering peace and understanding. In an effort to create a dialogue between youth in our community and the police department, The Arts Empowerment Project worked with the Youth Summer Enrichment Program (YSEP) to pull together a “Promoting Peace Panel” in response to the violence that has been pervasive in communities across our nation.
The event was facilitated by arts educator, Jonell Logan, with help from Sherrill Foust, a counselor and one of the coordinators of YSEP. The session opened with an arts exercise as an ice-breaker before launching into the more delicate conversations.
“The primary focus of the “Promoting Peace” panel was to bring together youth, police, counselors and community members to an open dialogue about the issues of community and police violence in the wake of the recent shootings and resulting tragedies across the nation,” said Natalie Frazier Allen, Founder and CEO of The Arts Empowerment Project. “Our hope in doing this was to make strides towards addressing fears, hostilities, concerns and anxieties in order to promote peace and understanding.”
Charlotte-Mecklenburg Police officers responded enthusiastically to the call. Seven officers sat down with participating youth to exchange views about mutual respect, and responding to what each group sees when we view each other.
“I thought the Promoting Peace discussion was an important one to have,” added Adior Barac, an intern with the mayor’s Youth Employment Program. “Especially in these times of racial tensions. It was nice for the children to speak with the police officers to help rebuild trust in the community.”
Creating a greater understanding about expectations, perspective, and many of the common bonds we all share as people, citizens and community members have a greater appreciation for each other.
“The seminar eliminated barriers between the cops and kids and when the group began discussing, it was as if they were united rather than divided,” said Kara McNamee, a UNC student who participated in the program. “I think the seminar was so important for the kids to see that we stand together as a community and together we can make it better.”
With the success of this Promoting Peace Panel, the Arts Empowerment Project hopes to participate in more of these bridge-building discussions in the future.