By Naomi Yakawich
“I’m so happy and honored to be here today because I’m in the presence of our future leaders,” Councilman Jermaine Robinson welcomed Jersey City Cross-Community Engagement (CCE) youth at a gathering in City Hall on May 19. “I will definitely call us brothers and sisters here because we are for the same fight. We are here to pledge to be nonviolent.”
Cross-Community Engagement, launched in July 2016, engages thirty at-risk middle and high school Latino and African American youth in a series of workshops and activities that encourage dialogue and build cross-cultural relationships. Based on a program that successfully mediated conflict among Catholic and Protestant communities in Northern Ireland, CCE utilizes icebreaker and teambuilding activities to build trust and partnerships between youth of various ethnic groups within Jersey City. This unique program incorporates the leadership of faith groups, government and nonprofits to mentor youth to recognize and resolve identity-based attitudes and behaviors.
Councilman Robinson first took notice of these extraordinary young people during a prayer vigil organized by the Jersey City Anti-Violence Movement held on April 4. The vigil commemorated the lives of those lost in the city’s recent outbreak of violent crime, an issue now being addressed by the young leaders of CCE.
The City Hall event showcased CCE youth who used their collective voice to explain the issue of violence and propose values-based solutions to reduce the ongoing violence in their community.
One CCE youth participant, Denise, explained that youth could take the lead in organizing campaigns that can be shared with peers. “Everyone bears a moral and social responsibility to ensure we all live in a drug and crime-free environment,” she said.
Global Peace Foundation USA President Alan Inman encouraged the young people saying, “You are making a statement in Jersey City that young people care about their city; they care about their friends being hurt on the streets. Please feel pride in yourself. You are going to lift up Jersey City and make a difference for our region and for the world.”
“With proper leadership, this is what we get, a focused group of young people who can move forward to implement a plan to make sure the city is safe for everyone.”
Pamela Johnson, Executive Director of Jersey City Anti-Violence Movement, unexpectedly presented certificates of recognition to these young people to commend their efforts. “It means you are determined; it means you are disciplined; it means you are focused,” she said. “With proper leadership, this is what we get, a focused group of young people who can move forward to implement a plan to make sure the city is safe for everyone. This is the type of movement that needs to start in Jersey City. I see a bright future for you.”
CCE youth are participating in a Peace Pledge signature campaign and a 40 Days of Peace challenge to put peace into practice through daily acts of kindness, and will participate in the Jersey City Anti-Violence Unity Walk on June 10. The CCE pilot program concludes with the CCE youth graduation on June 15.
Show your support to end violence in the Cross-Community Engagement Pledge Campaign.