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News :: Civil & Human Rights

Richmond teens try to stop violence creatively

Teens try to stop violence creatively
Youth Peace Project sprang from slaying of student in Richmond
Sunday, March 6, 2005

Too many of our kids are dying, said 16-year-old Brittney Robinson.

"I grew up to fight, fight, fight," said Robinson, swinging her fist in the air as if she were pounding someone in a brawl. Robinson was one of about 30 teens who attended a summit yesterday on youth violence as part of the Richmond Youth Peace Project.

But Robinson knows how vio- lence has taken the lives of many of her peers.

"I'm learning to ignore, negotiate and find better ways to resolve my problems. But it's going to be hard. It's not what I grew up doing."

Offering alternatives to violence was the focus of the gathering at the Richmond Peace Education Center. Through Aikido, a form of martial arts, as well as yoga, poetry, graphic arts and conflict-resolution training, middle and high school students spent the day expressing themselves and learning how to replace fists with reconciliation.

Last year's stabbing death of Thomas Jefferson High School student Justin Creech by a classmate prompted a group of students from Open High School and Maggie L. Walker Governor's School to form the Richmond Youth Peace Project and fill what they call a void in the lives of their peers.

"The students came together to talk about what they could do to stop youth violence," said Ram Bhagat, a chemistry and anatomy teacher at Open High who guided the students in creating the program and its first youth summit. "We wanted to discuss and formulate solutions to the problem. Too many of our kids are dying."

The workshops aimed to use creativity and other techniques to help students understand their own emotions and express them in a positive light.

"Our young black brothers are blind to the system that's killing them," shouted Craig Watson, a member of the poetry group Lyric Ave, as he recited an original poem, "Rest in Peace."

Watson, along with Lyric Ave members Dontronn Goode and Jeffrey Marlow, urged students to inspire others through words in their "Spoken Word" seminar.

"Words are powerful," Watson told the group. "You can touch, move and influence people. Make change through your words."

The meeting was the second part of a two-day summit on youth violence. Friday's town-hall meeting included perspectives on the impact of youth violence on local communities and the issue of gang-related violence in the city.

James Hickman Sr., a veteran of the Richmond Police Department's homicide division, attributed some of the city's major violence to gang activity. During his 28 years with the police department, Hickman said, he had a hand in investigating what he says were major violent gangs.

"I did all of them," said Hickman, who now works as the lead security specialist at Armstrong High School. "We put a lot of those guys -- young guys -- away for life. But things are still bad. The community and schools have to work together to keep these kids off the streets."

Other speakers offering insight Friday were community activist Alicia Rasin, Lt. John Buckovich of the Richmond Police Department's gang unit, and Richmond native Lonnie Athens, a criminal-justice professor at Seton Hall University.

Groups such as Food Not Bombs, Drums No Guns, and other facilitators and volunteers also contributed to the summit.

Ken Willis, executive director of the Richmond Peace Education Center, which promotes social justice within the community, said the center will continue to sponsor the event "until violence declines in our city."

Contact Osita Iroegbu at (804) 524-9723 or oiroegbu@timesdispatch.com

This story can be found at: http://www.timesdispatch.com/servlet/Satellite?pagename=RTD%2FMGArticle%2FRTD_BasicArticle&c=MGArticle&cid=1031781407329&path=%21news&s=1045855934842

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News :: Civil & Human Rights

Lawyers' panel indicts Bush, Blair

US President George Bush and British Prime Minister Tony Blair deserve life sentences, with the possibility of parole after 25 years, for the war crimes and genocide in Iraq, according to a lawyers' panel.

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News :: International Relations

Syria to move troops to east Lebanon

Syrian forces, under international pressure to quit Lebanon, will pull back to eastern areas this month and Damascus and Beirut will then decide how long the troops stay, the leaders of the two countries have agreed.

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News :: Environment : International Relations

'Reckless' Nuclear Plant Dumps Waste on Beaches

'Reckless' Nuclear Plant Dumps Waste on Beaches

Sunday 06 March 2005

Safety breaches at one of Britain's biggest nuclear research stations resulted in hundreds of thousands of radioactive particles escaping into the environment, a former safety officer has revealed. Highly radioactive waste was pumped into the sea and evidence of the pollution was covered up by managers who had a "reckless" disregard for public health, according to Herbie Lyall, a health physics surveyor at the Dounreay plant in Caithness for 30 years.

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News :: Civil & Human Rights

Gay Beating Victim Breaks Silence

Anti-Hate Crime Rally Draws More Than 500

CHAPEL HILL, N.C. -- A gay college student who was taunted and beaten in Chapel Hill broke his silence Tuesday night in an interview with NBC 17.
Thomas Stockwell, 21, came forward after a rally and march against hate crime that drew hundreds to the campus of the University of North Carolina.

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News :: Civil & Human Rights

VMI Cadets "Punished" for Costumes

5 VMI cadets punished
Objectionable costumes worn to Halloween party lead to civility training, other steps
Friday, March 4, 2005

Virginia Military Institute punished five upperclassmen cadets with 1,000-word essays, penalty tours and dorm confinement for wearing insensitive or stereotyped Halloween costumes, the school said in a release.

The incident also led to civility training sessions conducted for the entire 1,300-member cadet corps, a school spokesman said.

The penalties followed a student-led investigation into photographs from a party on campus that were posted on the Internet in January.

They showed one student dressed as a Nazi, another in blackface as an apparent starving African and two winged fairies in pink lampooning homosexuals. Some 400 VMI students participated in the Oct. 31 costume party in the Barracks.

Publication of the pictures and national media coverage put the school in what Superintendent J.H. Binford "Binnie" Peay III called "a poor light," VMI said in a release.

The posting led to an investigation by the Officer of the Guard Association, a cadet body that probes misconduct. The student General Committee then recommended penalties to the administration, which reviewed them last week and approved them, the school said.

VMI did not release the names of the cadets punished.

The essays, confinement and penalty tours -- walking for 50 minutes with a rifle were the range of punishments given the upperclassmen, VMI said.

The written assignments were on the detrimental impact the cadets' actions had on the institute. Cadets punished with Barracks confinement must remain in the spartan dorm area when not attending academic or official duties for up to two weeks. The school required as many as 25 of the mind-numbing walking tours for offenders, the school said.

Seven freshman "rats" who were also investigated were not punished, but were lectured by cadet leaders and attended training sessions on civility and nondiscrimination required for the student body, said school spokesman Stewart MacInnis.

The special training is in line with a wide range of civility instruction taking place at the school. The corps will undergo another round of civility training that was planned before the incident, MacInnis said.

"It's an ideal time to give them this training. They understand why they're getting it, now," he said.

The civility training uses cadet leaders, institute personnel and outside experts to address matters such as respect for others. The program also deals with inappropriate behavior publicized at other colleges and universities, the school said.

Peay said in a statement that the punishments were appropriate and commended the students who handled the investigation.

"While this incident is regrettable, it has gained the attention of the cadets," the superintendent said. "We are taking advantage of this opportunity to reinforce the principles of respect and civility that our cadets must learn if they are to become truly effective leaders."

Contact Calvin R. Trice at (540) 574-9977 or ctrice@timesdispatch.com

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News :: Urban Development

Insane real estate assessments

Yesterday when we reported that "assessments could rise between 20 percent and 40 percent for some homes", we though that meant that 40% was the high end. A quick check on some houses in the area, though, shows increases of over 200%! Check out some examples, with photos.

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News :: Crime & Police

Town Hall Meeting: Crime

Mayor Wilder and many other local government representatives held a town hall meeting at Armstrong High School on Tuesday night. Public turnout was high, and many citizens had a opportunity to speak.

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