The Peacemakers mentor and redirect youth into healthy lifestyles. We work to build relationships, gather information, and mediate gang conflicts to prevent violence. Additionally, we respond to violent assaults and shootings while working in concert with law enforcement officials to build safe neighborhoods in the City of Buffalo. Following acts of violence, the peacemakers work with victims and their families to offer grief counseling and to prevent retaliatory behavior. We also actively train and engage citizens in their work of practicing and promoting non-violent intervention techniques..
I started working with Pastor Giles about 8 years ago. I ran the weed and seed program for the buffalo police department. We partnered together on some youth mentoring programs.
Six years ago I was walking through the Juneteenth celebration at Mlk Park. I was heading toward the basketball courts, there was a tournament going on. Suddenly I heard pow, pow, pow, pow. I looked to my left and saw a guy running straight into the crowd shooting an assault rifle. He spotted me and took off running. I called it out on my radio, and started chasing him. He ran from the park and down Sweeney street however, by the time I got to Sweeney, I lost sight of him. I thought he had gotten away until I spotted a person on a porch pointing at one of the yards. I headed into the yard with my gun drawn. My heart was racing. I knew if he popped out at me I would have to shoot him. As I came around the back of the house there he was, bent over facing away from me, trying to catch his breath. The gun, a mac 10 assault rifle, was lying on the ground next to him still smoking. I put my gun to him and yelled for him to get on the ground. He looked at me, and then he looked at the gun. I knocked him to the ground and cuffed him. It turns out that he was the leader of a gang called "d" block and he had come to Juneteenth to shoot up a rival gang. Back then Juneteenth was pretty violent. It was where all the gangs went to settle their beefs. They wanted to do it in front of a large crowd. Later that day after I caught that guy we had 3 more shootings in the park. Back then we even had a hard time getting police officers to work it, it was all day fights and stabbings and shootings.
Anyway, after that year’s Juneteenth, I sat down with my boss and we knew we needed to do something different, so we approached pastor Giles about helping us. The following year pastor Giles assembled about 50 volunteers, from back to basics, fathers, mad dads, buffalo united front, and others. They, and we, worked really hard that first couple of years to keep the gangs under control. The past 2 years, we haven't had a single incident. The organizers have said it is one of the safest events in the city, and the community has responded. The crowds are coming back.
Since then we have asked the peacemakers to assist us on other events. Cheektowaga approached us a few years ago after a homicide in one of their parks and asked us for advice, we recommended the peacemakers.
The mission of Alternatives to Violence Project is to empower people to lead nonviolent lives through affirmation, respect for all, community building, communication, cooperation, and trust. It is dedicated to reducing the level of violence in our society by introducing people to ways of resolving conflict that reduce their need to resort to violence as the solution.