Edwin Buggage Editor-in-Chief Data News Weekly
Violence Plagues the City of New Orleans
As we enter 2023, New Orleans continues to struggle with crime and gun violence. Undoubtedly, the violence that proliferates does not discriminate. Thus, causing residents to feel unsafe all over the city.
At the end of last year, Mayor LaToya Cantrell named a new Police Superintendent in Michelle Woodfork. While this is a historic choice, leadership changes at NOPD arguably will not curb the crime and gun violence that plagues the city. It will take a community effort, where all become stakeholders in making the city safer for all citizens.
Peacekeepers: Resolving Conflicts Key to Community Safety
This is an effort being taken on by the Peacekeepers, an organization that since 2009 have been inside communities across the city working to “Squash the Beef, Before the Grief.” Data News Weekly had the opportunity to speak to Willie Muhammad, Co-Founder of the New Orleans Peacekeepers to speak about their work in New Orleans and around the nation to reduce violence.
“What we were doing is call for the community to get more involved in 2009 walking through the community to try to prevent violence and connecting people to resources that would better their lives. In 2011 we started the conflict resolution hotline that’s been successful in helping to deescalate situations between community members,” says Willie Muhammad, Co-Founder of the New Orleans Peacekeepers and Minister of the Nation of Islam Mosque #46.
We are all Stakeholders: A Community Approach
While they have been successful, Muhammad believes they still have a long way to go. Explaining where they have been effective, he says, “One reason we are both effective and successful is because we are connected to the community. We work with people who are connected to the community and with those relationships there is a level of trust and accountability. If we were able to build it out, we would like to create more awareness, as well as going into schools and even prisons to training people how to resolve conflicts.”
The Peacekeepers are comprised of people of many faiths coming together to reduce violence. They are unified in their approach. “We have Christians, Muslims, Hebrews, and non-religious people, we believe that peace in our community is bigger than any faith or religious tradition that we have.”
Getting Involved in Solutions to Crime and Violence
Recently, they have placed billboards in several location in the city to make citizens aware of their initiative.
There will be three billboards, one will be on Downman and Chef, Orleans and Broad and one on St. Bernard near Hunters field. Downman is the main thoroughfare and New Orleans East have seen an increase in the violence in the city. Really to get the word out that we are here to help you if you allow it.”
The Peacekeepers have for over a decade been doing the work to make communities safer, but Willie Muhmmad is looking to do more, and they are looking for those who want to support their mission.
“We need human capital, people who are willing to give their time and of course financial support to expand on what we are doing. We need all hands-on deck, so for those who are interested please give us a call at 504-321-3190.”
How a Community Becomes Safe: All Hands-on Deck
“There are cities across the country who have taken on our initiative. We have trained over 1500 in this conflict resolution training as needed in their city. Everywhere we go they think it is a great initiative.”
The Peacekeepers have done much of their work on a grassroots level but would like to have a seat at the table when discussions are being had about how to reduce violence in the City of New Orleans.
“From day one Councilman Oliver Thomas has been supportive and has participated in the work we do. We are interested in working with city leaders, and there is no reason we shouldn’t have a seat at the table when leaders are speaking about solutions to gun violence in the city.”
The Peacekeepers realize that violence in the community is everyone’s problem, and no one is immune to its impact. Therefore, all must make a conscious effort to contributing to solutions.
“One of things that’s missing is people have not realized that gun violence is not just a Black community issue. And I think that’s how most people see it, that it does not affect their community.”
“Our ultimate goal is to create an environment where conflict resolution is the norm.”