The Institute's Story
It was the summer of 2000 and 15-year-old Jennifer Rivera was gunned down in front of her house. She was the state’s key witness in a murder trial and was to testify the next day.
Unfortunately, Jennifer's death wasn't an isolated incident in her crime-stricken neighborhood. In 2000, 30 people were murdered in Providence, and 45 were killed statewide. But this was a pivotal moment. Jennifer’s murder was the catalyst for the creation of the Nonviolence Institute.
Tired of burying their neighborhood children, the Ministry Team at St. Michael's church on the Southside of Providence took action, founding the Institute in its church rectory.
“The sheer number of deaths of young people by young people prompted [us] to do more than preach and teach. We were determined to create a center of nonviolence that focused on confronting violence with nonviolence. Providing training opportunities in nonviolence that could stir hearts into a change of life. Nonviolence training is the core that built the Institute. The other dimensions provide the vehicles for that change.” – Sister Ann Keefe, Founder
While the Institute's long-term mission is about building a culture of nonviolence and becoming an international center of excellence for nonviolence training and practice, the Institute’s immediate objective is to prevent violence, and particularly youth gang violence. We accomplish this by immediately intervening in violent situations, and working with youth to introduce nonviolence as a better alternative. We provide a continuum of care to our clients and their families to educate, sustain, console, and celebrate with them along their journey to a nonviolent lifestyle.
Nonviolence Theory - A National Movement
The Institute is a powerful example of a national experiment to eliminate gang violence that has been underway for the last 20 years. David Kennedy describes this national experiment in his book “Don’t Shoot” (2011).
We create dialogue and common ground, focus on immediate goals, define consequences and opportunities, and stay the course. Violence, this approach argues, is fundamentally a problem resolved by relationship and community. This approach is not “soft on crime”, but “smart on crime”. It also supports the work of others who share a long-term vision of eradicating the root causes of violence like poverty, disparities in education, and racism.
For almost two decades, the Institute has been a part of creating this solution in Rhode Island. Our unique contributors are our staff, who have become a knowledgeable and trustworthy voice with deep community ties, our board of directors, who bring their relationships and resources to the table - but most importantly - our community of clients and neighbors who support our vision.
The philosophy and method of nonviolence the Institute offers is a practical substitute for violence and the Institute’s deep commitment to welcoming people who have been deeply injured by violence, as perpetrators and victims, to Our Beloved Healthy Community.
The Institute, in collaboration with its partners, is at the forefront of advancing the nonviolence movement.
We thank you for sharing our work.