By Ariel Worthy
The Birmingham Times
Searching for answers following a Labor Day weekend where seven teens were injured and another killed in two separate shootings, Birmingham Mayor Randall Woodfin on Wednesday announced plans to strengthen conflict resolution efforts in place.
“I’ve said, and firmly believe, we must double down on conflict resolution efforts and opportunities for our youth,” Woodfin said at a City Hall news conference that included Police Chief Patrick Smith and nearly a dozen other leaders from various organizations. “If they won’t come to us, we must go to them.”
The mayor pointed out a $180,000 community project launched in late spring that has provided conflict resolution training for nearly 900 young people in the city so far. The project creates opportunities for mentoring, counseling and character building through academics, the arts and athletics.
Some of the conflict-resolution organizations that have received $10,000 each to participate include The Dannon Project, Family Guidance Center, One Place Metro Alabama Family Justice Center, Chosen Girls Rock!, and Women Achieving Victory Through Excellence, Inc. (WAVE, Inc.)
On Wednesday, Woodfin was joined by Kerri Pruitt, executive director of The Dannon Project; Nick Crawford, President of A4One; Regina Allison, program director of Family Guidance Center; Dr. Martin Nalls, executive director of CAMP – Birmingham Summer Institute, Keith Strickland, founder of Making the Transition, among others.
“These individuals with me represent how we must deal with the problem of violent crime against our young people,” Woodfin said as he stood with representatives from the outreach groups. “We need a comprehensive approach that involves police, the courts, but also community business partners – all working together in support of our children.”
The Dannon Project’s partnership with the city includes targeting in-school and out-of-school youth. The in-school youth came from the Woodlawn High School community. The out-of-school youth came from local justice partners.
“Some of the topics included healthy and unhealthy responses to conflict, strategies to prevent and avoid conflict, steps to resolve conflict, communication skills, respect and empathy,” Pruitt said. “One of the things we found out is majority of the students that attended the training from Woodlawn were basketball players. We found out last week that one of the students actually had the opportunity to demonstrate what he had heard through those conflict resolution workshops by avoiding conflict.”
Pruitt said, “If we can ever get our community to explain their anger instead of expressing it through violence, we will be better able as a community to find solutions instead of pointing fingers as though this is a single isolated problem.
Woodfin said adults should also be more involved, in addition to the outreach organizations.
“None of us should leave it up to the mayor, police chiefs and/or police officers to do everything to solve these issues,” Woodfin said.
The mayor said parents should also find ways to become more engaged.
“Do you know what your child is posting (on social media), do you know what is in their bookbag when they walk out of the house,” he said. “It would be great for family members – moms, dads, cousins, big brothers, big sisters, aunts, uncles – to engage the children the way they need to before they ever have to interact with us. Because we don’t want that interaction.”
Anyone with information about the shootings, can call Crime Stoppers at 205-254-7777 or Birmingham police at 205-254-1764.