CLEVELAND: Former gang members will be among the community and anti-violence activists from across the country meeting at a university in Cleveland this weekend to talk about solutions to violence in urban neighborhoods.
“The Call to Universal Oneness Campaign” is a four-day event that began Thursday at Cleveland State University.
Leaders of the event, which is being organized by the International Council For Urban Peace, Justice and Empowerment, said they’ll discuss how to deal with poverty, gun violence, gangs and the breakdown of traditional family structure and lack of moral identity in many inner-city communities.
One of the organizers, Rashad Byrdsong, tells The (Cleveland) Plain Dealer that one of the main goals is to address the problems in urban communities as a public-health problem instead of as criminal justice challenges.
“The research shows that most folks who are incarcerated don’t finish school,” Byrdsong said, and “are people of color who that come from poor communities ... and folks who deal with chemical dependency issues.”
“We’re going to be talking about disrupting the variables that lead to this kind of behavior,” he said.
Khalid Samad, an organizer who directs Cleveland’s Peace in the Hood, said more than 35 different organizations are expected to participate at the conference. They’re coming from Los Angeles, Chicago, Washington, New York and other cities. U.S. Rep. Marcia Fudge, who represents a northeastern Ohio district, also is scheduled to speak.
Other events Friday included a panel providing a historical analysis on urban violence.
Former gang members from the Bloods, Crips, Gangster Disciples, Folk Nation and from Ohio’s Heartless Felons, one of the state’s largest prison gangs, are also expected to attend.
Part of the event will take place at a Cleveland church. The final day will be marked by a remembrance ceremony, cultural fair and family event at an east side park.