Documentary Film Screening and Q&A Repairing the World: Stories from the Tree of Life Wednesday, March 29, at 7:30pm in Science Center 101
The film’s director Patrice O’Neill (Not in Our Town, https://www.niot.org/) will screen the film and answer questions. Please come join us.
Repairing the World: Stories from the Tree of Lifedocuments a community’s response to hate in the aftermath of the shootings at the Tree of Life Synagogue in Pittsburgh, PA. Eleven congregants lost their lives on October 27, 2018 in the deadliest attack on Jews in U.S. history. Through the voices of survivors, family members, and members of diverse communities, the film shows unity in a moment of crisis, the resilience of a vibrant city, and a community working together to understand what it means to be “stronger than hate.” Repairing the World shows how a traumatized city works to heal and confront the threat of antisemitism, racism, hate speech, and gun violence.
Contact Bob Weinberg (rweinbe1 at swarthmore . edu) for additional information.
It’s considered an epidemic in the U.S., accounting for nearly 20,000 deaths in 2020 alone, as it tears through communities and tears families apart, especially in low-income and urban areas.
Yet unlike the global pandemic, this public health issue — gun violence — receives relatively little public attention, aside from the high-profile mass shootings that dominate headlines. And specific details about these crimes can also be hard to come by, making it difficult for advocates to get the support their communities need.
Working to fill in those gaps, Swarthmore students have developed an interactive map that tracks all gun deaths in the College’s surrounding communities. Created under the guidance of Professor of Sociology Lee Smithey, the Delaware County (Pennsylvania) Homicide Database aims to assist in the prevention of gun violence while telling a fuller story of the effects of firearms.
The project is a peacebuilding effort in partnership with local anti-violence groups, says Smithey, who is also coordinator of the Peace & Conflict Studies Program. Although crime statistics are readily available from law enforcement agencies, he says, they are rarely presented in a way that’s easy for the public to process. By utilizing the College’s technological and scholarly resources, the students served as research assistants for these community groups, supporting them in their advocacy.
“One of the most rewarding things about this project,” Smithey says, “has been getting connected with gun violence prevention groups,” including Delaware County United for Sensible Gun Policy, co-founded by Robin Lasersohn ’88 and her husband, Terry Rumsey, and Women of Strength United for Change. “We felt it was important to learn from others who have been working locally on this problem.”
For the database, students downloaded homicide information from the FBI’s Uniform Crime Report and then cross-checked their findings against local news reports to glean further details about each case, such as victims’ names and where the shootings happened. Database users can search gun deaths in Delaware County going back to 2005, while filtering by such demographics as victims’ age, sex, and race, and applying map overlays including median income per area.
The database was developed over five nonconsecutive semesters as part of Smithey’s Gun Violence Prevention course, which explores firearms from the perspective of public health, policy, law enforcement, advocates, and even gun enthusiasts. Community partners and survivors of gun violence are frequent guest speakers in the course, often sharing how they’ve been personally affected by firearms.
“For me, the course was really about humanizing both the living and, unfortunately, deceased victims of gun violence,” says Aleina Dume ’23, a sociology and educational studies major from Queens, N.Y. One speaker, Beverly Wright — a mother from Chester who lost her son to gun violence — made a particular impact on Dume: “Hearing her story but also about her grassroots activism really helped me remember that these are lives that we’re entering into this database,” she says. “We might not know this person’s name, but that just speaks to how important the work is.”
After consulting with community members like Wright, Smithey’s students decided against using pinpoints for each death in the database, so as not to reduce each victim to a statistic. Instead, the information is presented as a heat map, with areas growing more saturated in color as the number of cases increases.
“When I look at that map, I probably tend to see it as a sociologist first, and I start thinking about proximity to the interstate, the income level in these various neighborhoods, etc.,” Smithey says. But for residents of areas where gun violence is prevalent, he says, “they see a mosaic of stories and individuals and people, and they know that many of these homicide events are related to one another. It opened our eyes to how this is going to tell a different story to different people.”
Smithey expects the database to be useful not only to violence-prevention groups, but also to trauma surgeons, public health workers, and local governments. The ultimate hope is for the database to raise awareness of gun violence, while helping communities make gains in combating the epidemic.
“I wrote a paper relating gun violence to the coronavirus because that’s exactly what it is: a public health crisis,” says Oliver Hicks ’22, a political science and peace & conflict studies major from San Luis Obispo, Calif. “Our gun violence problem is not limited to just the school shootings that have perversely normalized themselves in news headlines — it’s so much more.”
Please come join us to a book event at 1 p.m. on Thursday, October 24 with Lou Klarevas, author of Rampage Nation: Securing America from Mass Shootings, a deeply researched study in which he argues that sensible gun control measures can help prevent mass shootings. Dr. Klarevas will speak in the Inn at Swarthmore’s Gathering Room A. Afterwards, he will move to the Swarthmore Campus & Community Store to sign copies of his books
Rampage Nation review excerpt:
In the past decade, no individual act of violence has killed more people in the United States than the mass shooting. This well-researched, forcefully argued book answers some of the most pressing questions facing our society: Why do people go on killing sprees? Are gun-free zones magnets for deadly rampages? What can we do to curb the carnage of this disturbing form of firearm violence?Contrary to conventional wisdom, the author shows that gun possession often prods aggrieved, mentally unstable individuals to go on shooting sprees; these attacks largely occur in places where guns are not prohibited by law; and sensible gun-control measures like the federal Assault Weapons Ban-which helped drastically reduce rampage violence when it was in effect-are instrumental to keeping Americans safe from mass shootings in the future.To stem gun massacres, the author proposes several original policy prescriptions, ranging from the enactment of sensible firearm safety reforms to an overhaul of how the justice system investigates potential active-shooter threats and prosecutes violent crimes. Calling attention to the growing problem of mass shootings,Rampage Nationdemonstrates that this unique form of gun violence is more than just a criminal justice offense or public health scourge. It is a threat to American security.
Louis Klarevas, PhD, teaches in the Department of Global Affairs at the University of Massachusetts–Boston. He also serves as a consultant to the federal government on national security matters. A frequent commentator on homeland security and foreign policy, he has appeared on numerous news programs, including on CNN, ABC, NPR, and the BBC. In the past, he has taught at American University, George Washington University, City University of New York, and New York University. In addition, he has served as the Defense Analysis Research Fellow at the London School of Economics and a Senior Fulbright Scholar in Security Studies.
As we mourn the loss of our lives in another recent mass shooting and as neighbors endure the persistent tempo of gun violence here in Delaware County, Heeding God’s Call will sponsor a rally and walk at Swarthmore Friends Meeting House on our campus this Sunday, November 4. You are invited to attend and show your concern.
Delco interfaith group to hold gun awareness walk and memorial in Swarthmore on November 4
Heeding God’s Call to End Gun Violence, a faith-based organization, will hold a Delco Gun Violence Awareness Day walk and memorial in Swarthmore on the afternoon of Sunday, November 4. It will begin at 2:00 P.M. with a gathering at the Swarthmore Friends Meeting House, 12 Whittier Place, on the Swarthmore College campus, to be followed by a walk through Swarthmore. The walk will end at Trinity Episcopal Church, 301 North Chester Road. Those who have lost loved ones due to gun violence will be among the speakers at the closing ceremony. A Memorial to the Lost display of T shirts with the names of Delaware County victims will serve as a visual reminder of the heavy toll in lives from gun violence. While, as a tax-exempt organization, Heeding God’s Call does not take sides in elections, it urges people to find out where candidates stand on the gun violence issue and let them know where they themselves stand.
The Memorial to the Lost will be displayed on the lower part of Parrish lawn on the Swarthmore campus from September 18 – October 2.
The Memorial is a T-shirt display that represents gun deaths right here in Delaware County from 2011-2015. There are 153 T-shirts, each bearing the name of an individual killed by gun violence, the date of death, and their age when they died.
Members of the college community are invited to help install the Memorial on Sunday, September 18, beginning at 4 pm. All are encouraged to walk by the Memorial at any time, read the names, hold them in memory, and reflect on the toll that gun violence takes in innocent lives every day.
The Memorial is sponsored by Heeding God’s Call to End Gun Violence, a faith-based and grassroots movement. Headquartered in Philadelphia with chapters in Pennsylvania and neighboring states, Heeding seeks to bring faithful and public pressure to end gun violence in our homes, communities and nation.
Co-sponsored by Swarthmore Students for Sensible Gun Policy, the Interfaith Center, and the President’s Office.
Armed Conflict, Small Arms Proliferation and Women’s Non-Violent Peace Movement in Manipur
Lecture by Binalakshmi Nepram Manipur Women Gun Survivor’s Network, Control Arms Foundation of India & Northeast India, and Women’s Initiative for Peace
Wednesday, March 2, 2016 4:30 p.m.
Science Center 101
Northeast India, home to 45 million people belonging to 272 ethnic groups, has been facing the onslaught of multiple armed conflicts for the last 60 years. This talk will unravel the Northeast Region of India, the complexities of the on-going conflicts, from the struggle over natural resources, ethnic strife, illegal migration, displacement and social exclusion, and discuss the unique and courageous way in which the Meira Paibis or the non-violent “Torch Bearer’s” Movement, led by women, has shown the path for peace and reconciliation. Binalakshmi (Bina) Nepram, born in the state of Manipur located in India’s Northeast region, is a writer and civil rights activist whose work focuses on women-led disarmament movements. She is the author of four books, a recipient of the Dalai Lama Foundation’s WISCOMP Scholar of Peace Award, 2008; the Sean MacBride Peace Prize, 2010; and the CNN IBN Real Heroes Award in 2011. In 2013, the London-based organization Action on Armed Violence named Nepram among the “100 most influential people in world working on armed violence reduction.”
A special luncheon with Bina Nepram has been organized on Thursday March 3, 2016 at 12:30 p.m. at the Lang Center for Civic and Social Responsibility. Due to limited seating, please contact Anna Everetts at aeveret1 if you would like to attend the luncheon.
Sponsored by: Asian Studies, Religion, Peace and Conflict Studies, Gender and Sexuality Studies, Sociology and Anthropology, Lang Center for Civic and Social Responsibility, the President’s Office, and DESHI.
David M. Kennedy (Swarthmore class of 1980 and an honorary degree recipient in 2011) directed the Boston Gun Project, whose “Operation Ceasefire” intervention was responsible for a more than sixty per cent reduction in youth homicide victimization and won the Ford Foundation Innovations in Government award. He is the author of Don’t Shoot, One Man, a Street Fellowship, and the End of Violence in Inner-City America.Read more about David Kennedy.
Watch David Kennedy address the senior class of 2011 during the Commencement in which he received an honorary degree from the College:
“Gun Violence Prevention: Peace Studies and Action” PEAC 077 will be offered again this semester, and spots remain available in the course. This community-based learning class will partner with local gun violence prevention organizations to integrate and develop knowledge about the problem of gun violence that can support their work.
Peace Studies and Action aims to bridge the gaps between peace research, theory, and implementation by encouraging students to move between each as we study nonviolent ways of conducting conflict and the challenges of developing and sustaining effective peace work. While developing a nuanced understanding of the problem of gun violence, we also aim to get close to the experience of peacemakers and activists by consulting with and visiting local peace organizations and engaging with invited guests. As a class, we will collaborate with local organizations to contribute to their work while developing our own research skills.
Discussion over course readings will also be emphasized. This course will encourage collaboration and active participation in delivering the content of the course. The class will meet on Tuesdays 1:15-4:00 in the Lang Center Seminar Room (#106). This course has no pre-requisite.
The spring semester begins on Martin Luther King day, and as on many topics, Dr. King illuminates peace studies with his vision for education:
“Education without social action is a one-sided value because it has no true power potential. Social action without education is a weak expression of pure energy. Deeds uninformed by educated thought can take false directions. When we go into action and confront our adversaries, we must be as armed with knowledge as they. Our policies should have the strength of deep analysis beneath them to be able to challenge the clever sophistries of our opponents.”
– Martin Luther King, Jr. Where Do We Go from here: Chaos or Community? (p. 155)
For a brief introduction to the problem of gun violence in Philadelphia, view this short video by Jim MacMillan, a founder of GunCrisis.org and former Journalist in Residence at Swarthmore.
Tweets from the Spring 2013 section of the class: [no longer available. See #swatgvp on Twitter for all tweets.]
Students in the course PEAC 077 “Peace Studies and Action” partnered with the local gun violence reporting organization, guncrisis.org over the spring semester 2013. In the spirit of “process journalism” that guncrisis journalists employ, our class made announcements, shared resources, and offered comments on gun violence prevention over the course of the semester using a #swatpsa hashtag on Twitter.
Former Journalist-in-Residence for War News Radio and Manager of Media and Social Responsibility for the Lang Center, Founder, GunCrisis.org Current Assistant Director for the Center for Public Interest Journalism at Temple University
How do we address the epidemic of homicide by gunfire in America? What is the future and impact of journalism in response to epic changes in information delivery? How can social media be put to use for positive social change? On average, at least one person has been murdered in Philadelphia every day over the last 25 years, and more than three-quarters of them have been killed with a gun.
The Gun Crisis Reporting Project is a non-profit independent journalism organization intended to fill the gaps in gun violence reporting, and to help seek solutions.