Trenton. N.J.—Daryl Brooks is a native of Trenton, N.J., and has been engaged in the community for over a decade as an activist. Brooks desires for his city to implement and embrace non-violent teachings. He is convinced that the teachings of Mahatma Gandhi and Martin Luther King. Jr., can help change the culture of violence in the city.
Trenton, the capital city of New Jersey, is known for its famous pork roll and violence. Lately, the city has experienced multiple homicides. According to the local newspaper, The Trentonian, police officers were called to the home of Florence Grayson, 54, who had suffered several stab wounds to her body. In a separate incident, Benjamin DaVilla Jr., 23, was murdered in a drive-by shooting. And recently, James Turner, 18, was shot in the head and died on the scene. All fatalities occurred in October 2012.
Brooks believes the younger generation is surrounded by a culture of violence. “They see violence in the street and they see war. Violence is a major part of their lives,” lamented Brooks. Brooks believes the youth’s immediate access to violent content via smartphones, and other handheld devices, can be a contributing factor in perpetuating the culture of violence.
He might have a point, according to Albert Bandura, Jordan Professor (Emeritus) of Social Sciences in Psychology at Stanford University. The American Psychological Association posted an article citing Bandura’s research on their website. “Later research has shown that viewing violent acts on TV and in the movies affects people in other negative ways,” suggests the research. Also, Bandura’s research reveals that the effects manifests in ways such as:
-Decreasing viewers’ concern about victims’ suffering.
-Decreasing viewers’ sensitivity to violent acts.
- Increasing the likelihood that viewers will emulate the aggressive acts depicted in the show or movie. Young children are especially vulnerable to the effects of observed violence.
Bandura’s analysis can be observed at Trenton Central High School High. While waiting in the main office to speak to vice principal Penny Brit, administrators and security were summoned to the third floor to break up a fight.
Brit is no pushover. She demands excellence and does not make excuses for her students when they make bad decisions. However, despite the students’ violent reputation and low graduation rate she has hope. “I am for these students,” says Brit.
She also lives in the reality that violence is a major problem for the neighborhood and the school. She is trying to combat the problem with non-violent strategies, mostly enforced by the state’s Anti-Bullying initiative. This month is Anti-Bullying month and they’re using this opportunity to confront these social ills with an event called “Winter Meet and Greet.”
Brits understanding of the violence at Trenton High is the same as Brooks. Brit attributes the violence to lack of social skills. She believes this program will equip students with practical skills to handle aggression. “Our students need it in the worse way. I see the way our students communicate on a daily basis. They don’t have enough opportunities to practice appropriate communication with each other that doesn’t involve violence and suspicion,” said Britt.
However, Brooks doesn’t like anti-bullying programs. He thinks they’re limited in scope. “They aren’t giving teenagers the skill to deal with aggression. When there is an act of violence, to whom do they send the teenagers? “Disciplinarians,” Brooks said. He continues, “the tradition of non-violence teachings would equip the students to think critically in a time of crisis. Potentially, the teachings can help keep the violator’s and the violated both from harming each other. “
According to Brit, they are also taking an initiative to build a relationship between the school and parents. The PTA has just received funding to partner with parents in diffusing anger in the home. Brit says she welcomes any program that is catered to helping the students and community.