|(Image of the New Orleans Peace Keepers' "Squash the Beef" billboard)|
The New Orleans Peace Keepers have been in existence since 2009. The group was formed locally after a young father murdered his two year son, because he did not want to pay child support. The group is made up of men from a variety of backgrounds, who see the challenges the community faces as being bigger than differences in faiths and philosophies.
"One of the most rewarding things I have ever done is participate as a Peacekeeper. This group of men are committed to using their time, energy, resources, and minds to save the children of New Orleans from senseless violence," stated Oliver Thomas.
Since its formation the New Orleans Peace Keepers have walked through over thirty neighborhoods working to spread the message of peace, settling conflicts and connecting members of the community to services that would help improve the quality of their lives. During their very first community walk the Peace Keepers prevented a fight that was about to take place between a group of youth. This is only one of the many successful stories the Peace Keepers have experienced.
In April of 2011, the New Orleans Peace Keepers began a new initiative aimed at combating the violence which is claiming the lives of hundreds every year. The initiative is called “Squash the Beef Hotline.” The purpose of the hotline is to give those who want to end a “beef” an opportunity to do so. The hotline’s number is 504-274-9426.
When the Peace Keepers are contacted by someone who wants to end a beef, they work to set up a meeting where members of the Peace Keepers serve as mediators. Since launching the hotline, the Peace Keepers have been able to successfully resolve several “beefs”. The most recent beef mediation involved two youths who had a conflict while at school. Several days later, one of the youth was shot while standing on a corner with some of his friends. The student, who was shot, thought that the student he had a conflict with in school was responsible for the shooting. At the mediation, he learned that the student, whom he held responsible, had nothing to do with it and had no idea where he lived. After everything was said and done the two young men agreed to end the beef they had with one another. The mother, siblings and school officials were all pleased to see that the matter was peacefully resolved.
“I could tell that the young brothers were happy to have someone intervene. They had a look of relief on their faces,” stated Calvin X, New Orleans Peace Keeper Mediator and Outreach Coordinator.
To get the word out the Peace Keepers have passed out fliers, ran radio ads, appeared on local radio stations and have a promotional video online. The organizers feel that if they had more funding, they could inform more people about the initiative. However, limited finances have not stopped the Peace Keepers from working to save lives.
“This initiative has been funded exclusively by members of the Peace Keepers and some members of the community. We are pleased to say that due to recent contributions we will now have two billboards that we will use to promote the Squash the Beef Hotline,” stated Student Minister Willie Muhammad, the New Orleans Peace Keepers Spokesperson.
The New Orleans Peace Keepers is part of a national Peace Keeper movement that was begun by Dennis Muhammad, who has been traveling throughout America and parts of London setting up branches.
"Crime and Violence could never be solved by those in law enforcement alone or by simply locking people up. There has to be a partnership between law enforcement and the community because crime and violence in the community is a social problem. It can only be solved with all of the social agencies, grassroots organizations, and religious groups along with law enforcement working together. Men must take responsibility to make the streets in their communities safe for the women, children and elderly", stated Dennis Muhammad, founder of the Peace Keepers.