By Bryon Muhammad
NEW ORLEANS—The city of New Orleans topped the list for the largest increase in homicides among America’s 50 largest cities, according to a recently released crime report. The increase in homicide rates along with increases in carjackings, robberies, shootings and more has residents and others questioning whether the city is safe. Additionally, the local police department is losing officers and the agency’s 911 response time is an average of hours. Despite these grim circumstances, members of Muhammad Mosque No. 46 and community members gathered to participate in a conflict mediator recruitment effort.
“It’s troubling to hear the news reports about the incidences of gun violence that continue to take place here in the city,” said Brother Willie Muhammad, Student Minister of Muhammad Mosque No. 46. “We, who have been working to reduce such incidents, believe that we must continue to warn, work and offer our assistance to help curb this violence.”
The group launched the conflict resolution hotline in New Orleans in 2011 under the banner of the anti-violence initiative known as the Peace Keepers, which was founded by Fruit of Islam (FOI) Captain Emeritus Dennis Muhammad. Since the launch of the hotline, numerous conflicts have been resolved.
“Just this week, I was able to intervene in an issue that involved two members of a high school football team,” Brother Willie continued. “The beef started over some jokes. One individual decided to contact his brother to come around the school after practice. There was some talk about possible gunplay. We were able to inform the coaching staff, who gathered the two young men together and addressed the issue. In nearly all of our training, we always stress the importance of getting involved immediately and not allowing the conflict to fester. Early involvement increases the likelihood of successfully resolving an issue,” he said.
The Honorable Minister Louis Farrakhan issued a call in 2015 for 10,000 Fearless men and women to work to make our communities clean and decent places to live and to engage in conflict resolution to resolve conflicts and “beefs.” The Minister has taught on the importance of conflict resolution.
To date, 25 cities have received the training and more than 1,500 people have been trained. During the training, participants were taught each step of the mediation process, the role of a mediator and mediation techniques.
“We hope that those who participated in the training realized the urgent need for individuals that have the heart and ability to be of service in an effective way as we strive to lead by example on ways to employ effective communication among our community members. … Conflict resolution is one of the solutions that give our people an opportunity to learn a different approach when having a disagreement and also preventing conflicts before they get out of hand,” stated Brother Calvin X, one of the leading mediators.
The group intends to raise funds that will be used to purchase billboards around the city that will promote a hotline. In addition to the billboards, recruitment drives will be held and conflict resolution trainings with other civic and religious groups in the city. As a result of the coverage of the training by a local news station, the group has already received an offer to provide conflict resolution training to some students at a local high school.
“I am going to work to help setup trainings in the church that I am a member of. This work is needed,” Minister James Breland said.