Amid a rise in gun violence and hate crimes that have traumatized communities across the nation, Supervisor Mark Ridley-Thomas, the Institute for Non-Violence in Los Angeles, and Cedars-Sinai Medical Center convened more than 100 civic, business, community and religious leaders for a Days of Dialogue session around the theme of Reclaiming Civility and Tolerance in the Face of Violence.
The gathering encouraged constructive civic engagement as a powerful rebuttal to such horrific acts of violence as the recent mass shooting at a bar in Thousand Oaks, as well as the targeting of Jews at the Tree of Life synagogue in Pittsburgh and of African Americans at the Mother Emmanuel Baptist Church in Charleston.
“We have seen dark days before and there will surely be more to come but dialogue creates a bond that will help us withstand any attempts to divide us,” Supervisor Ridley-Thomas told those invited to the dialogue at Cedars-Sinai’s Harvey Morse Auditorium. “As community leaders, it is our responsibility to stay focused on solutions and never waver from this commitment.”
“Dialogue is the first step in constructively dealing with the range of issues that we are bombarded with,” said Institute for Non-Violence in Los Angeles Co-Director Avis Ridley-Thomas. “We very rarely take the opportunity to just sit down, think, and discuss the various ways that we can tackle these challenges.”
“At Cedars-Sinai, part of our tradition is that we were founded by the Jewish community at time when Jewish physicians and nurses weren’t free to practice everywhere. We are proudly aware of that heritage and are dedicated to working in the service of all communities,” Cedars-Sinai Senior Vice President of Community Relations Arthur Ochoa said. “As an institution that stands counter to what that represents, it is appropriate for us to be a partner and to do what we can to host this event.”
Patti Giggans, executive director of the nonprofit Peace Over Violence, said, “I hope today’s dialogue will inspire more conversations about how to back away from incivility. We need leadership to do this and the fact that we are holding this conversation as leaders, we are going to be able to counteract the rise of intolerance, hate and aggression.”
Los Angeles Police Chief Michel Moore said, “LAPD has been involved with Days of Dialogue since its inception and we are pleased to continue our engagement with this vital and necessary resource. As participants, we see this as an opportunity to listen and understand various perspectives.”
At the conclusion of the dialogue, participants noted that bringing leaders together to talk about what can be done to address the epidemic of violence is as healing as it is necessary. Others said the dialogue was transformative, and would allow communities to emerge stronger and more resilient from tragedy.
For over 25 years, Days of Dialogue has provided an opportunity for leaders to discuss timely social and political issues facing communities. The sessions have included political town hall forums in large auditoriums, as well as more intimate gatherings at neighborhood libraries and churches.