I am responding to the article featured on your “Gangland” cover [“Putting in Work,” May 6]. The article pointed out that the shared “knowledge factor” of crime among gang members on a national level makes them more of a problem than individuals because they help to train one another with a best-method approach. We should be so smart in our response to preventing gang problems.
Azim Khamisa of San Diego, Calif., has had a very effective gang-prevention program functioning since 1995. He formed the Tariq Khamisa Foundation after his son Tariq was murdered by a 14-year-old gang member. He has forgiven Tariq’s shooter (Tony Hicks) and works closely with Tony’s grandfather to “stop kids from killing kids.” They go to classrooms in their community to demystify gang life and teach social-problem-solving skills to children beginning at the fourth-grade level. These men are icons of forgiveness, the likes of whom most of our children have never been exposed too.
Azim’s dream is to implement a national program. He is passionately working to help found a cabinet-level Department of Peace and Nonviolence, via the [federal bill] H.R. 808. This department would share a national knowledge-factor to prevent gang violence (among our other social ills). The approach would also be time- and cost-effective, as opposed to trying to reinvent the wheel in every American city.
Gangs are a national epidemic. If we were talking about swine flu here, we would be trying everything to find a cure. I am urging your interested readers to go to www.tkf.org and find out more about San Diego’s prevention program.
We have a “gang” of kids in Asheville who are establishing their identities as peacemakers—the Student Peace Alliance. They lobby in support of H.R. 808. Contact them at email@example.com.
— Deborah Rhinehart