For students and community leaders in San Diego, violence is not an abstract concept.
One student said she hopes for a world where students, teachers, administrators and parents don’t have to fear about where and how to hide students during a mass shooting. Another said he hopes we can one day be a country where no one has to be the victim of domestic violence. “Racism happens everywhere and every day… I myself go through racism all the time. I’m African American.” “Communities are supposed to be safe places, not hostile environments.” "The families of victims hold endless pain in their hearts." These are some of the messages from San Diego high school students to members of Congress in September 2018.
During Advocacy Days 2018, Department of Peacebuilding (DoP) supporters delivered letters to approximately 140 Representatives and Senators from 71 e3 Civic High students, Bishop George McKinney, City Council President Myrtle Cole, San Diego Board of Education member Dr. Sharon Whitehurst-Payne, e3 Civic High School CEO Helen Griffith, All In San Diego Founder Lan E. Jefferson, Grandmother and Peace Activist Cynthia Gilliam and Daniel Horton.
They wrote that by preventing violence and establishing a cabinet-level Department of Peace, we can save lives and resources. Students killed in school shootings could have been the “next people to find a cure for cancer or make a great discovery.” Instead of spending “all that money to pay for domestic violence, it could be used for cancer research and other diseases.” “Establishing a Department of Peacebuilding would be life-changing to all women, and men as well if they have gone through [domestic violence]. By establishing a DoP, we can devote time and resources toward [resolving] community violence … “
Students wrote about their experiences with violence, their fears, their hopes. They implored adults and members of Congress to listen to them. They are concerned about domestic violence in their homes, violence in their schools, violence on the streets and in their communities, and violence in their country and in this world. These concerns also include bullying; school shootings and gun violence; homicide and suicide; human trafficking; economic inequality, lack of jobs and homelessness; hate and violence relating to discrimination, race and ethnicity; police brutality; and terrorism.
Adults wrote students “know the pain when people do not accept and respect one another. They know that we must build peace in our own beings and in our families, schools and communities. It is time to make violence prevention a national priority.” (Dr. Sharon Whitehurst-Payne, San Diego Board of Education) “I want a world with more peace, unity and acceptance … [students] were born to make a difference and to be a positive change in this world … I urged my students to celebrate all people. That is what a Department of Peacebuilding is about.” (Helen Griffith, Ed.D., CEO at e3 High School) “I have had a lifelong personal commitment to peaceful living and peacebuilding .. I am often called upon during times of turmoil and distress to be a voice for reason and peace .. An official, Cabinet-level position of Secretary of the US Department of Peacebuilding will go a long way to create an environment that chooses peace over chaos, love over hate and friendship over enemies…” (Bishop George D. McKinney)
Students understand the interconnectedness of the various forms of violence and social conditions. “According to the Safe Schools Initiative Report, 71% of school shooters are victims of extreme bullying.” (Michael Prado) “School violence doesn’t just mean school shootings. Bullying is a huge problem that I’ve seen and experienced. This also leads people to worry, feel more insecure, and even self-harm and death. I’ve read posts on social media about little kids killing themselves because of bullying …” (Anaya M) “I want our streets, neighborhoods, cities, towns, and everywhere in the United States [to be] safer. Main reasons I have seen people doing these things is because [they’re] jobless and they have no home or no one that can support them…” (Johnathon Salmond)
A. Community Violence
- “.. our communities should be safe places. I also think that we shouldn’t be afraid to visit community centers such as libraries, schools, churches, and community pools or parks. I feel that every time we go to school or church we shouldn’t have to think about when the next mass shooting going to happen…” Gabby Townsend
- “Violence is a problem in City Heights which is home to many nationalities and one of the largest refugee communities in the country. Street fights, gangs, and school violence are part of my daily life.” Chris Htoo
- “For me personally I don’t feel safe in my neighborhood … There’s been a lot of shootings and almost every day when I go out I hear either cops and/or a helicopter going around my home…” "Because of a car accident, a man shot a MOTHER who was on her way to pick up her daughter from school." “This need to stop … everyone deserves to be happy. Families should never go through this.” Estela Maciel
- “…we’re getting killed and mistreated by the police who are supposed to be our heroes and save us from danger who can we trust.” Kailine Harrison
- Community violence “can cause trauma, injuries and even death … Not only does this problem cause physical problems but economy problems as well. $300 billion goes into community violence alone … there are about 30,7000 estimated gangs since 2012.” Alejandro Alonso
- Community violence in San Diego also relates to “sex trafficking as we are near Mexico and not only that but we have a port as well.” Ryon Mkkan
B. Domestic Violence
- “I’ve seen and heard of so many people who have been dramatically affected by domestic violence. My friends, my family, myself… domestic violence comes in so many different forms, whether it’s parents fighting, a father being abusive, a mother being abusive, even as far as a child being abusive … Why are people so sick in the head to feel the need to hurt the ones they’re supposed to love?” “When someone abuses a kid, they are likely to grow up and do the same… Children follow the steps of the people they see …” Mariarenee A.
- “…It is not okay for families to hurt each other… a husband beating his wife or a dad hurting his son unfairly …” Daniel Breshears
C. Ethnic Violence & Racism
- “With the president we have now, he is teaching people to hate and assume the worst.” Illegible Signature
- “People should not discriminate [against] someone by their skin color. Someone shouldn’t say that if he looks Middle Eastern, they are terrorists or if someone is Mexican or black that they are in gangs. This gets into people’s minds and they start to believe this.” Angel Ibarra
- “… Ethnic violence or prejudice is very present in my Hispanic community. The racism and hatred against the Latino race in the U.S. have become stronger and more present after our current administration was put in place 2 years ago … it is a societal disease that has plagued many parts of our country.” Jahaziel Lomeli
- “ … families and people are killed because certain people don’t like our race. I am not comfortable with hearing gunshots in our neighborhood or even screaming of people at night … The color of our skin should not make us afraid of violence from others in the community or those in law enforcement.” Angel Romero
- “The color of someone’s skin should not be a reason for someone to be poorly treated. Everyone has the right to be treated equally and anyone who thinks otherwise should not be given a badge and gun.” Jonathan Tovar
D. School Violence, Bullying and School Shootings
- Regarding school violence, “there is not a single reason for this problem, some students become violent by just following the behavior and actions they’ve seen at home, videogames, movies, streets. They may feel rejected by their classmates or they are having a hard time at home, feeling angry or depressed. One of the most important reasons is when they have access to weapons…” Andrea Sanchez
- “School shootings could happen at any school any time … This causes extreme pain and trauma for the victims’ families and the shooting survivors. It is our job as a nation to demolish school shootings … Imagine the next school that gets terrorized is the school your sister, brother, cousin, niece or nephew attend… emotional damage caused once it has happened … It’s only the beginning for those who await a lifetime of sadness and sorrow … Every time students and learning facilitators enter the school, they are reminded everywhere about what took place in their school. Many of the victims even suffer from PTSD … the families of victims hold endless pain in their hearts for the rest of their lives …” Samantha Toerino
- “Dreams will die if their body goes away.” Unsigned
“I believe that everyone deserves to live in peace… All this violence has to stop so we can have a better future.” Jonan Solis
It is time to hear our children.
On Behalf of the National Department of Peacebuilding Committee,
Department of Peacebuilding Supporters,
And the San Diego Peacebuilding Community