As Interim Director of the Nonviolence Institute in Providence, as well as the Director of Student Services at The Met School, Cedric Huntley is well known as an advocate for at-risk youth.
He has received numerous community awards for his amazing work, including 2019 Gun Violence Prevention Impact Award from RICAGV.
In his recent interview with Boston Globe reporter Dan McGowan, Cedric spoke about the recent violence in Providence, and described several goals of the Nonviolence Institute, which includes “increased awareness throughout the state about the services offered.”
To help reach that goal we share the interview with you below.
Dan McGowan Interview with Cedric Huntley
Q: You were recently named interim executive director at the institute. What’s your top priority in this new role?
Huntley: Our top priority at the Nonviolence Institute of Rhode Island is to continue the mission of promoting the study and practice of nonviolence through increasing awareness within our city state and increasing the funding for the Institute.
More than ever, particularly during this COVID-19 pandemic, our marginalized communities are experiencing the pressures of homelessness, unemployment, mental health issues, hunger, domestic violence, and uncertainty of how learning programs will be deployed at educational institutions.
The institute supports families and living victims of violence via a two-pronged approach: 1) Our outreach programs engage at-risk youth that are prone to violence and redirects them to a positive path through nonviolence training and employment opportunities; 2) Our victim services programs provide relocation assistance, arrangements for loved ones, and help with applying for the state’s victim’s compensation fund.
Q: The coronavirus has made it more difficult for face-to face interaction, and that must be especially challenging for your organization. How are you reaching young people now?
Huntley: We understand as social activities are limited that we must think creatively regarding outreach and developing platforms that address our impacted communities. Prior to COVID-19, we engaged at-risk youth by visiting recreational centers, attending after-school programs, and sporting events to teach them about the institute as well as to mentor, coach, and educate them about the practice of nonviolence.
Due to the limitations in social interaction, we plan to increase our presence on social media platforms to reach at-risk youth with content authored for youth, by youth. Our goal is to partner with local high schools and colleges and other organizations to develop virtual programs to continue our outreach in the community.
Q: We’re seeing an uptick in violence in the largest cities in the country. In Providence, most types of crime are down in 2020, but aggravated assaults are up 11 percent compared to last year and we’re now up to nine homicides. What are you seeing and hearing in the city this year?
Huntley: Youth in poorer cities are experiencing unprecedented emotional trauma from the interruptions of a normal school routine and may experience an increase in violence within their home and neighborhood. Society tends to focus on the act of violence and not the cause. The institute focuses on the cause of violence and provides preventative measures and intervention programs to the community.
Youth have become desensitized, over time, as family and friends are violently assaulted and murdered with frequency. People forget that experiences don’t go away and those youth who are raised in a culture of violence become adults who have never connected to resources addressing that trauma. We have a society of youth and adults dealing with PTSD who never signed up for this war. School has been a way for many to escape the trauma at home and in their community.
Youth who have relied on school for six hours of relief each day have now been told that distance learning will replace relationships and activities that engage developing minds and bodies. The impact of this could lead to more unreported crimes, which is a major concern for us. Safe outlets need to be provided for youth that do not have access to schools that are closed.
Q: 2020 has been a crazy year. Where do you see the institute a year from now?
Huntley: Twenty years ago, the founders of the Institute, Sister Ann Keefe and Father Ray Malm, had a vision to create a space that addressed the causes of violence and ways to prevent it through training programs. One year from now, the board and staff of the Nonviolence Institute of Rhode Island would like to have increased awareness throughout the state about the services offered, doubled the number of volunteers; recruited more youth activists/influencers, provided a blueprint for other states to model and open similar institutes in their communities, and continued to be an inclusive and peaceful safe haven in our beloved community where people can learn the steps of nonviolence. Nonviolence is a call to and for action. We all have a responsibility regardless of our stations in our communities.