Children: Let Them Amaze You
Asking why. Finding solutions.
Instead of reacting about police brutality with vengeance and violence, Babatunde Salaam decided to ask why. Sounds simple, but the results of his questioning attitude led to a peaceful response. At the age of sixteen, he showed a much more mature approach to resolving conflict than many of adults do. Here is an introduction to this remarkable young man from the Marion Institute, a nonprofit that seeks to resolve social issues by getting to the root cause:
Babatunde E. Salaam is a writer, award-winning filmmaker and Peace First Fellow (2013-2015). Babatunde has produced over 15 short films on issues dealing with youth entrepreneurship, education and the prison industrial complex. In 2010, he and Megan Sherman along with other colleagues at New Lens Productions developed and trained the majority of Baltimore’s police officers in a statistically highly effective youth sensitivity model.
Peace First is a national organization that is developing the next generation for peace. They believe that children can become effective peacemakers and naturally move into positions of leadership in society. Here are the comments given regarding Babatunde’s award:
As an African-American male growing up in urban Baltimore, Babatunde was all too familiar with the ongoing hostilities between young people of color and the police. After he was unfairly stopped by a police officer while walking home from an after-school program, he knew he needed to take a stand against the injustice he was seeing.
Babatunde knew that just his own experiences weren’t enough. He realized to truly transform the relationship between youth and police, he needed to understand the underlying causes of the tensions. He started conducting research and included members of his after-school film club who had been voicing similar concerns and negative experiences with local police. Guided by his research and supported by his peers, Babatunde developed a documentary film and companion trainings to bring together youth and police to create more productive interactions. After completing several trainings, Babatunde’s evaluation showed that 92% of police officers found the training “helpful” and 58% said they will change their behavior towards youth. Babatunde plans to continue his workshops in neighboring communities and collaborate with those communities to promote more civic engagement opportunities for peers.
I listened to the video presentation on the Marion Institute. Babatunde discussed the arrest disparities that exist in America. He starts off by saying that he wants to “close the rift between young people and the police.” He stated that people are “afraid to talk about police brutality.” He said that when he was sixteen and created the program to train police officers in Baltimore, he was already acutely aware of the problems facing African-American youth and their relationship to the police. He knew that people of color were being accosted by the police on the street and in their own homes. He lamented the culture of violence that is perpetrated by our society. He said, “It’s important that people who live in the community actually police the community. Without a community that has strong foundations of care and trust, we cannot hope for justice or peace.”
Let’s replicate Babatunde’s youth and police interaction program. Talk with civic leaders in your town. Share this article in PONDER!