Judy Sherry and Susan Blaney
Judy Sherry and Susan Blaney were strangers until they were drawn together by their shared concern about gun violence. The co-founders of the Kansas-Missouri chapter of’Grandmothers Against Gun Violence’ (GAG) state that they are not against guns per se, but want to raise awareness about gun violence.
In October, 2014, Ms. Blaney contacted me to ask if I would consider speaking at their monthly meeting. Their membership was interested in hearing ways to talk respectfully with people they do not agree with. My answer was “absolutely”. At the Center for Conflict Resoluition we know that the skills for ‘listening to hear and talking to be heard’ are the same no matter what the topic or situation.
On November 10th, I presented to more than 70 members of the local chapter of GAG, affiliated with the Heartland Coalition Against Gun Violence. The questions that followed confirmed that they understand the value of and the necessity to open conversations between people who disagree, in public, on social media and at the kitchen table. Position vs. Interest, ‘I’ language instead of ‘You’ language and Open Ended Questions help to encourage incrimental shifts in perspectives.
The other invited speaker for the evening was newly re-elected Kansas Legislator Melissa Rooker. Ms. Rooker talked about ways to have an impact with leaders and answered questions about current concerns in the state government. I attended a seminar at the Kansas State Capital Building in Jefferson City last summer, made posible by the Health Care Foundation of Greater Kansas City , and presented the 3-3-1 tool for talking to legislators; 3 points, 3 minutes, 1 page. Ms. Rooker confirmed the helpfulness of that approach.
That evening I saw evidence of an emerging attitude from ‘win-lose’ to ‘win-win’ and ‘learn-learn’. Many people are beginning to pursue collaboration on important issues in their community. Welcome to the Peace Party!
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David Anderson Hooker and Elaine Zook Barge
In May, 2014, I had the privilege of attending the ‘Strategies for Trauma Awareness and Resilience’ (STAR) course at Eastern Mennonite University (EMU) in Harrisonburg, Virginia. I re-connected with Center for Justice and Peacebuilding (CJP) staff, who I love and admire from my graduate school days, and absorbed wisdom and knowledge from 2 experienced instructors and practitioners, David Anderson Hooker and Elaine Zook Barge. The class roster included 25 colleagues from around the world, several of whom came from countries that were, at that very moment, experiencing war. Some came from countries where equal treatment for women had yet to become part of the conversation. Some of the participants were Mennonite and one was ex-military. We all shared at least 2 commonalities, a personal experience of trauma and the desire to learn from each other.
During the 7 intense days of class, we studied cycles of trauma, symptoms of unhealed trauma, and “interrupting the transmission of woundedness” (James O’Dea, Cultivating Peace, 2012). We explored Truth, Mercy, Peace and Justice, through an exercise that personified those complicated concepts, and participated in a distress exercise that involved walking with a stone in our shoe. Throughout each enlightening, engaging and sometimes exhausting day I became, not only better at my job, but a more compassionate person.
CJP has created a world community that welcomes all people and a learning experience that demands engagement and growth. The Center for Conflict Resolution – Kansas City (CCR) is one of the many offshoots of the CJP community. CCR’s Conflict Resolution and Restorative Justice training and programs model what we have internalized from our time at CJP. To learn more about the Center for Justice and Peacebuilding go to www.emu.edu/cjp/. To learn more about the Center for Conflict Resolution in Kansas City go to www.ccrkc.org.
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As a training facilitator for the Center for Conflict Resolution, there is nothing more inspiring than to watch a curious and bright training participant fit the pieces together and create something new for themselves. I watched such a creation unfold with a young woman who attended training at Ivanhoe Neighborhood Association. The training was funded by a Jackson County COMBAT Prevention grant, and Ivanhoe graciously provided the perfect venue.
From the first time I met her, Jenika showed an acute interest in the principles of Restorative Justice. I watched her gather information, grapple with her own thoughts and feelings, and then incorporate the expanded perspective she gained to improve her interactions with others. During the second to the last class session, Jenika asked if she could present to the group the following week. Since one of the goals of the community trainings is capacity building, and since Jenika had earlier shared a desire to be a facilitator, we said “Sure!”
The following week, she began by saying she was nervous, although it didn’t show. She described some of the principles and values of the Restorative Justice way of life and then related it accurately and beautifully to her own experience. She spoke of the people that her past behaviors affected; her children, her family and her community, and shared a process for restitution and rebuilding. As her presentation came to a close, she listed elements that, for her, described restoration:
- Abuse free relationships
- Strong encouraging support system
- Honest, open relationship with authority figures
- Healthy decision making
- Positive Community Involvement
- Family building/Family trust
- Positive social network
- Positive credibility in my community
Living a restored life, one decision at a time! Welcome to the Peace Party!
You can join! Contact us at www.ccrkc.org firstname.lastname@example.org 816-461-8255