Before you judge, please dig into more
Before you judge, please dig into more. I read some of the comments in the newspaper that said, “This city is so violent, that’s why I moved out.” If you just only read in the papers, you don’t know how it is here. The papers can portray the prevalence of violence as very big, or they could make it very small.

Veasna Mao Kang, Streetworker, United Teen Equality Center


Perpetrators, victims, or bystanders
There was a cover of Newsweek or Time that had a photograph of a young African-American male, with his black hood and a sentence sheet wrapped around his arms, and the headline said “Super Predator.” The way we understood young African-heritage men was as perpetrators, victims, or bystanders. Young adults had the brilliant insight in their anger to say that’s actually not true, that most young people are actually sons and daughters, brothers and sisters and cousins that make a life.

Steven Brion-Meisels, Former Director of Peace First


Have you ever been there? That’s usually a really good question to start with
Someone will ask you what you do at work, and they’ll say, “Oh, that’s a really bad neighborhood,” or, “That must be a really rough job.” Or they assume that everyone impacted by gun violence is a gang member. What helps manage stress is actually not letting those comments slide. Not necessarily getting into arguments with people, but saying, “Actually, I really like my job, I really like my school. Why don’t you come meet me for lunch sometime so you can really see? I’ll show you so many different parts of the neighborhood. Have you ever been there?” That’s usually a really good question to start with, and usually the answer is no.

Erin Collins, LICSW


Taking the time to understand complexities
There are so many ideas about the kids at my school. And you see how, of course, it’s not the kids, it’s a system that fails them every day. I just wish that people took the time to understand complexities. And to care more about education in this country, to care about kids other that their own. If kids felt successful and if they did have a path to success, I think it would decrease a ton of violence.

Michelle Boyle, Teacher


We’re always blaming the victim
When violence happens, there’s shame that comes on. In a culture and a society that’s unforgiving, we’re always blaming the victim. Or we’re always looking at the family’s history, always saying “Well, no wonder, there is a reason- they live in a bad neighborhood.” And that’s who I was before my experiences. I thought bad things only happen to bad people, because that’s what we publicize.

Clementina M. Chéry, President and CEO of the Louis D. Brown Peace Institute


Where someone lives
Where someone lives doesn’t necessarily mean it’s going to make them violent. For instance, you have kids who live in war-torn areas, where there’s war going on all the time and they see violence on a daily basis, but that doesn’t necessarily make them violent. If anything, sometimes it makes them want to get away from violence, or be non-violent. Where you live could impact you’re exposure to violence, and maybe could desensitize you to some of the violence, so it just becomes kind of normal to read about, versus shocking every time you hear about it. But I don’t think necessarily it will make you violent because you live in a violent area.

Michael Lester, Dean of Students, Boston Preparatory Charter Public Schools