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Political Roundtable: Interview with NVI Executive Director Cedric Huntley

This is a transcript of an interview with NPR report Ian Donnis and NVI Executive Director Cedric Huntley. For the full article and podcast, please click here.

Ian Donnis: Welcome to the public's Radio. Thank you. For those who are unfamiliar with the Non Violence Institute, how would you describe the Institute and its work?

Cedric Huntley: The Institute is a organization that's been around for 22 years now. We have an education component, we have an advocacy and outreach component. We have case managers. We've been in the DOC. So I would describe the agency as an organization as a organization that serves Rhode Island. Many people think we are just servicing Providence, but we really service Rhode Island.

Donnis: You've been involved with the Institute from the very start, and you've been the executive director for a few years now. How would you – how would you describe how the problem of gun violence in Providence has changed since when the institute started back 22 years ago?

Huntley: Well, the issue of violence has has really, really not changed, right? We have, we see violence all throughout our state and our country. But the Institute has kind of shifted a little bit back in when we first met, Ian, we were specifically outreach, and we were charged to go out – in certain areas, and certain streets where there were issues of violence and kind of be interrupters in that process. Over time, through social media, you know, just it's, it's changed, it's changed. So I think it's evolved. But I think the violence is still happening in our, and especially in our urban core. Cities. And, and then also it's, it continues to trickle into other other cities in the state as well.

Donnis: We're coming up on the warmer months, a time when shootings typically increase in Providence and other cities, what are your top concerns heading into the summer of 2023?

Huntley: Top concerns are, you know, I'm still doing violence prevention. Right now, we're really trying to focus on like, a school based initiative, like, you know, reaching out and, and doing the prevention that will maybe interrupt the violence that could happen during those summer, summer months, where our young people are, are free, and maybe not have opportunities or summer opportunities. Also. We, I think, all year round we try to do the same thing. We just tried to try to build relationships, find out where issues may occur, and go to those areas. And we still respond to hospital responses. Like for instance, today we got a call there was there was a incidence of violence today as if someone was stabbed today. And we respond will continue to do so. It's always a concern. Summer, the heat people are out and about and and there's a lot of lot of issues with with anger and tolerance and, and so forth.

Donnis: One of the challenges of the kind of work that you do that is that it's difficult to demonstrate a violent act that's been prevented. But at the same time the institute is well known now. Police Department have a relationship with the Institute has this translated into an adequate amount of financial support from the private sector and the state here in Rhode Island?

Huntley: Not as much as I think it should be for the length of time that we have been around. Funding is always an issue for organizations like us, which are and it will will continue to be an issue but there are because of incidents of violence has increased on a national level. They are their funding sources that we can go to school based violence and just violence in our community.

Donnis: Your organization works on a concept known as the beloved community, how would you describe what that is?

Huntley: Beloved Community is where every every person can contribute to the beloved community. So the work with law enforcement, you know, there has always been this push, there's been this push that last several years, especially after George Floyd, you know, that, that you shouldn't work with, you know, law enforcement has gotten a very bad stain on it, you know, and we know that those incidents happen, but everybody can contribute to the beloved community. And that's, that's what we really believe in, everyone can contribute. And it's a collective body. We, we encourage, creating, and cultivating partnerships that will help those communities that we serve with resources and value them as as a as it as a partner. You know, in this in this work.

Donnis: We're talking here with Cedric Huntley, Executive Director of the non violence Institute in Providence. And in terms of partnerships, I think it might have been in Boston, that a playbook was sort of developed where police and non violence interrupters sit down with some of the people with the greatest propensity for shootings, saying, you know, if you try and do the right thing, we'll try and help you out. If you persist in taking part in shootings, we're going to come down on you heavy. How would you say that approach has worked out in Providence and what else needs to be done?

Huntley: I'd say that that approach has served, it's served this purpose. And we just have to have more awareness. And strengthen more partnerships. Is is really a part of it work with and collaborations. That's, I think that's where it is where it comes. And it's going to shift the, you know, shift that.

Donnis: Let me jump in here with another question back around the time when the institute started run 2001 2003, there were a much higher number of murders in Providence about 23, one year compared to nine last year, you told me at the time that if 23 white kids got shot in Warwick and killed, it would be a major issue, if there's that kind of wider complacency about gun violence and the toll that it takes in cities like Providence, what can be done to address that?

Huntley: Just more more awareness and education, I think around training, I think we have to, we have to focus on giving the non violence philosophy, I think we have to put that in schools, I think it's very important to have conversations that really, really matter, and teach those values that are that are critical to reducing reducing violence. And I still I still believe that I mean, just across this nation, you know, and I've talked about this before, you know, in those urban communities people are killing each other, that black and brown, black and brown youth are our at each other and with the access to weapons and guns. It it makes it that more important to to really educate young people on the alternatives to violence. They are alternatives to conflict and, and it's it's communication. It's, it's connecting with and it's it's a it's a process that we believe in a philosophy that we believe in, and we believe that it it works. Last Last year there was there was there were I think it was seven, seven murders in Providence alone last year. And law enforcement did a great job of solving most of those murders all actually, I think this the they solved all those murders last year. We're trending right now. Based on based on some data that I looked at yesterday, we're trending on probably the same responses to the hospital, the same number of murders, like that happened this year. We're at the same point as, as last year, the way it's trending. So yeah.

Donnis: I think we have time for one more question. The new police chief in Providence, Oscar Perez, is a native of Colombia, the first person of color to lead the Providence Police Department, does that make a significant difference for young people coming up in Providence?

Huntley: I really believe that's a great, it's a great story. As you know, we were very much involved in that process and supported his his appointment. I think it sets an example for young people that are growing up in, in in these urban areas that that they can aspire to. We I still think law enforcement is a is a noble profession, I really do. And we, you know, when I grew up, you know, people wanted to be law enforcement officers. We had that opportunity. So Chief Perez is a a very straight to the point and, and believes in the community and wants to make and continue the changes that have been been made to throughout the last 20 years or so in Providence he wants to continue that

Donnis: We've got to leave it there. Thank you so much for joining us separate currently Executive Director of the non violence Institute in Providence.

Huntley: We really, really thank you for having us here. We look forward to maybe coming back. And I would just stress one more thing. It is important that love and kindness are we spread love and kindness, you know, and the violence. We know what happens but we have to really focus on the love and kindness people being kind to each other and and loving each other's most important. And thanks for having thanks for having the non violence Institute and myself. We really appreciate the opportunity to talk about the work that we do.

All information via Rhode Island NPR.

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