Victory Over Violence: The Near Westside Peacemaking Project

Victory Over Violence

SYRACUSE, N.Y. (WSYR-TV) — The Center for Court Innovation operates The Near Westside Peacemaking project. It is facilitated by trained peacemakers from the community.

“The core of the peacemaking project is a practice inspired by the Native American practice called ‘peacemaking’ that brings together both sides of a dispute to sit down with trained peacemakers in the community and try and talk through the issue,” said Leah Russell, project coordinator for The Near Westside Peacemaking Project.

They conduct peacemaking sessions to help those affected by a dispute. The goal is to heal relationships and restore balance to the community.

“We provide community-based conflict resolution in the neighborhood and we also run a resident-led community impact team to empower residents to enact their own vision of what they want to see in their community,” Russell said.

Russell works alongside the people who live and work on the Near Westside to shift the narrative and culture of their community.

The area is known for some of the highest levels of concentrated poverty in the nation, with vacant buildings that become a magnet for criminal activity. But that is changing. Neighborhood children partnered with local artists to create bright paintings and put them on boarded-up houses.

“This was a way to bring a little color and make it pop and make people feel more proud of the space they live in [showing that] art lives here, love lives here, family lives here,” Russell said.

Like the family of Kerry Correa, who is a member of the project’s community impact team. She says her hope for the area is to make things better for the youth because they are the future.

To encourage the youth, the project also uses “pop-up play” models to promote health and wellness and a sense of community.

“It is basically a short term event, we pop up with a bunch of toys and games and we run semi-structured activities for kids and give away a lot of the toys as prizes so that the kids can play in these spaces long after we leave,” Russell explained.

To learn more about how the Peacemaking Project is restoring the Near Westside, click here.

For more local news, follow Jennifer Sanders on Twitter @JSandersNC9

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