Mayor: Change thinking to cut crime
By DENISE DICK
The only way to stop acts of violence such as those perpetrated in the city during the last few weeks is to change the way people think.
That was a recurring theme Monday at the kickoff of Nonviolence Week, which runs through Friday. The week was the idea of city school students who last year participated in the Sojourn to the Past, a 10-day trip to sites in the past that were pivotal in the civil-rights movement.
The students petitioned city council, the Youngstown State University trustees and city school board to make recognition of the first week of October as Nonviolence Week an annual event.
Trustees and the school board have already passed the resolutions and council is expected to pass a similar resolution.
Mayor Jay Williams said during the kickoff event at YSU’s Kilcawley Center that the solution to the violence that has plagued the city for decades won’t come from the mayor’s office or the police department.
“It’s this generation that sits before me” that must have a change in thinking, he said.
“If someone is intent on committing violence, they’re going to commit violence, and generation after generation of young people haven’t thought any differently,” the mayor said.
Last month a 74-year-old city man was killed and his wife injured when they were shot while traveling in their car on a Saturday afternoon. Those alleged to have shot them mistook the couple’s car for that of someone with whom they had a feud, authorities said.
Williams said that feud stemmed from one of the people who was the target of the gunfire calling the alleged shooter a snitch.
Jeff Steinberg, leader of the Sojourn to the Past, quoted the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., saying, “Nonviolence is a way of life for courageous people.”
The civil-rights movement wasn’t just about the leaders people read about in history books; it was about women and children, Steinberg said.
The Sojourn to the Past allows participants to meet people who survived violence and others whose relatives were murdered during the movement.
Violence isn’t just physical, he said. Language can be violent. Slurs based on someone’s race, gender, ethnicity, religion or sexual identity are examples.
Steinberg, a former teacher who lives in the San Francisco Bay area, urged students to think differently.
Any schools interested in the Sojourn to the Past may call Penny Wells at 330- 207-4467.
Wendy Webb, city schools superintendent, told the students attending that nonviolence can be difficult, but there is no greater peace than to know that you are in control of yourself.
Gregory Jones, a student at Youngstown Early College, took last year’s trip and says it changed his life.
As he walked around the Civil Rights Memorial in Montgomery, Ala., touching the engraved names of those who died, he felt compelled to “be more, do more and inspire more.”
The naming of this week as Nonviolence Week as an annual event shows that young people can make a difference, Jones said.
“We can step up, seize power, and we have already made a difference,” he said.
Other events, marking Nonviolence Week, are planned at YSU through Friday.