Bringing Communities Together

by Joseph Hayashi

CASP has been a new concept for me in the last year. I started going to the meetings of the Community Alliance for Safety and Peace because of a project I was fortunate enough to join. Before this I had no idea that these CASP meetings existed. I had no idea that so many people in the community were coming together to fight the problem of violence within the City of Salinas. Even when I started coming to the CASP it was hard for me to get interested in the meetings, partially because of how early the meetings were, but also because I wasn’t sure about how effective this alliance would be. Part of me felt like the task of fighting violence in Salinas was insurmountable.

Honestly, I was losing hope on Salinas. I was giving up on the idea of a safe Salinas. As much as I wanted a safer community, I just didn’t know if it could be done. Every CASP meeting I went to was very informative about what organizations did and what new programs they were implementing to help fight the problems but I just couldn’t visualize how it would make an impact on the fear of violence in the community. I have been told how unique the concept of CASP was in our conflict resolution field. I still admire the willingness for all these organizations coming together; I just didn’t see where it would help.

When we were on our way to this last CASP meeting I was expecting the same experience. Some organization giving a presentation on what they do in the community and then everyone introducing themselves. I wasn’t expecting my feelings to change. But I was wrong. This meeting was completely different.

This meeting started off with a reflection on the recent shooting that happened in Gilroy. The head of CASP wanted us to reflect on what happened and how that affected us. He asked us to reflect on two question: “How did this shooting affect us as individuals?” and “How does shooting affect how we lead in our organizations?” My answers to these questions were very easy for me. I told my partner how I was desensitized to the idea of shootings happening in my community. I didn’t feel fear or sadness from hearing about the shooting, I just accepted that it happened because it always happens. But then I was reminded of something at the end of the meeting.

At the end of the meeting, one woman stood up to thank everyone for coming, doing the work that they do in the community, and reminded us to not forget why we’re here. To remember that we are here to stop the violence and to not let ourselves to become numb to it.

This stuck a cord with me. I took it as a reminder about why I am studying the subject of conflict resolution. It reminded me about why I decided to take a three week intensive summer program on peacebuilding. It reminded me why I stay up till 2:00 in the morning working on papers about stopping violence. It reminded me that I am doing this to make this community safer. It reminded my that I don’t want kids to turn to violence like so many people I know. It reminded me about how I want these kids to have the same opportunities that I was fortunate to have.

At the end of this meeting, I felt a spark re-ignite within me. I was shown why these meetings were so important. These meetings show not just what organizations are doing within the community but it also shows how many people care. It shows how many people are invested in this idea of stopping violence and making Salinas into a safe community that people would be proud to live in.

After the meeting, the class discussed what they thought of it. There were some people that said that they did not see the point of the meeting. They said nothing of importance happened. I was able to reply back that something did happen. We were shown how a community comes together in hard times to support each other. We saw how Salinas rushed to the aid of Gilroy in its time of need. We saw what happens in these communities, firsthand, when something bad happens and how they come together. For me, I was reminded about why I want to become a Peacebuilder.

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