Residents from Baltimore graduated from the Baltimore Cross-Community Engagement Project presented by Project Pneuma and the Global Peace Foundation (GPF) at the University of Baltimore Learning Commons. The group volunteered to learn more about peacebuilding and tackling the issues of race relations.
“I am so grateful for an environment that facilitates the important conversations that we had,” said participant Kim Burton. She added, “Healing is a journey and I look forward to continuing with each of you.”
This pilot program consisted of 10 sessions over a 6-month period that actively engaged in constructive dialogue, examined and tested the assumptions of race relations in Baltimore. Session topics included, “Building the Foundation,” “The Art of Dialogue/Discourse,” “Drawing the Circle Wider,” “Our Shared Humanity/Identity,” “Our Neighborhoods, Ingredients for Resilience,” “What Does Race Mean to You,” and the final session, “Call to Action.”
“I didn’t know how I would be touched by so many people. I am also grateful for how we came together for the young men at the Family Healing Center,” said Kwanza Dixon, participant.
After the completion of the sessions the participants completed a service project together, at the Nexus-Woodbourne Family Healing Center in Baltimore City. The participants were able to share experiences and conversations with the young men and even brought small essential gifts which were appreciated by each of the residents. The interaction did not end there, some of the graduates have heard back from their mentee after their first interaction.
At the graduation ceremony, participants shared dinner with family members and heard remarks from the keynote speaker, Dr. Paul Murray, Vice President of Religious Freedom Initiatives, GPF. “You graduate, but this is really only the beginning of the work.” He added, “We must be willing to listen, to continue to learn, and challenge our own pre-conceptions. By doing so we can create a moral society that values justice, equality and respect for all.”
During the project sessions, officials, faith-based leaders and other members of the community led the topics of discussion before the attendees broke into groups with the facilitators. Facilitators were recommended by the University of Baltimore and are experienced in conflict resolution and counseling.
“Like you I believe this should continue because a foundation has been set that is solid and that can only grow, not only for ourselves, as individuals, but for the community and people of Baltimore,” said Assistant Project Manager and Facilitator Robin McDonough.
According to Gail Hambleton, Project Lead and Senior Program Specialist, GPF, “We plan to develop a committee that will meet quarterly to discuss relevant issues in our community related to peace and reconciliation. Some of these issues include racial relations, race conflicts, and misunderstandings.”
The Global Peace Foundation works with community and faith-based leaders, and local governments in areas of conflict to establish dialogue, build trust and forge lasting relationships. Since 2016, GPF has organized successful community peacebuilding projects in the communities of Billings, MT and Jersey City, NJ.