Peace and Disarmament

Back to listOct 4, 2008

"Victory Over Violence" Exhibition Travels to Schools in Oakland, California, USA

080928x_oaklnd_vov1.jpg The VOV exhibition at Ascend Middle School, Oakland, California

Mayor Ron Dellums of Oakland, California, USA, officially declared September 28 through October 4, 2008, "Victory Over Violence Week" in the city. The week began with the opening of the Victory Over Violence (VOV) exhibition at Laney College and a noontime event that included drumming and music in the student courtyard on campus.

The exhibition was displayed at the Laney College Library for three days during the week of September 28, interspersed with visits to two local schools. Consisting of large informational panels, the VOV exhibition highlights "passive violence," which can lead to physical violence in the home, school and community and includes broader, societal examples such as oppression, institutionalized racism and apathy.

080928x_oaklnd_vov3.jpg Dawn Sullivan (left) and Orlando Cepeda (right) speak at the VOV event at Laney College

Baseball Hall-of-Famer and SGI member Orlando Cepeda, guest of honor, spoke about how his temper cost him five years of his career. "I used to fight too much," he said, adding that as he learned to use his mind instead of his temper things got better. "Violence takes you nowhere." Many others spontaneously took the mike and shared their struggles and thoughts about dealing with violence in their lives and in their community.

At the closing event on October 4, Dawn Sullivan, SGI member and an officer with the Alameda County Sheriff's Department, shared the story of her life as a troubled teen who often resorted to passive and physical violence, and then her personal transformation and "victory over violence" that led to her becoming a peace officer and community activist.

080928x_oaklnd_vov2.jpg People take the mike to share their thoughts on what "victory over violence" means to them

During the showings of the VOV exhibition at West Oakland Middle School and Ascend Middle School, SGI-USA youth also headed workshops where students talked about their personal experiences with violence and what they learned from the displays.

Ascend Middle School participants had plenty to say about the topic. One student's cousin was shot and killed in a drive-by shooting. Another girl's uncle made the local newspaper's "homicide map," a collection of names and faces of men and women killed in Oakland each year. Briana Walace, a sixth grader, said she had never thought about passive violence before viewing the VOV exhibition, which says name-calling and bullying "fuel the fire of physical violence."

080928x_vov_oaklnd_kids.jpg Students view the VOV exhibition at Ascend Middle School (left), then participate in small workshops (right)

Victory Over Violence (VOV) is a youth-sponsored initiative that helps young people identify and begin to counteract the root causes of violence in their own lives and in their communities. SGI-USA youth launched the VOV outreach programs in 1999 as a response to the rise in youth-related violence.

[Adapted from an SGI-USA Northern California Zone report; photos by Lloyd Carlson, Susan Mcdonough and David Angelillo]