Residents of Adams, Dauphin, Franklin, and York counties all are involved in the community push
Twenty-eight residents of south-central Pennsylvania will serve as Pennsylvania Uniters in a federally-funded program to address targeted violence.
Under the auspices of nationally-based Urban Rural Action (URA), Uniting to Prevent Targeted Violence in South-Central Pennsylvania begins Feb. 18, in Gettysburg, its founder and executive director Joseph Bubman, told the Capital-Star.
He was identified by Time magazine in 2020 as one of 27 People Bridging Divides Across America. Adams, Dauphin, Franklin, and York counties are slated for involvement in the initiative.
Bubman has been involved with community organizing efforts in Franklin County since 2018. The organizing teams include Adams County coordinators Kierstan Belle and Chad Collie, Dauphin County coordinator Logan Grubb, Franklin County coordinator Michele Jansen, and York County coordinator Erec Smith.
Funded by the U.S. Department of Homeland Security’s Center for Prevention Programs and Partnerships under its Targeted Violence and Terrorism Prevention mission, each county will have $10,000 in program funds to support their efforts, drawn from a two-year project budget of $770,000, according to Bubman.
The DHS program “works to help prevent incidents of domestic violent extremism, as well as to bolster efforts to counter online radicalization and mobilization to violence,” according to URA’s website.
The grassroots effort “brings together Americans across divides to tackle our country’s most urgent challenges, one of which is targeted violence,” Bubman said.
“Our goal here in Pennsylvania is to form ideologically, racially, generationally, and geographically diverse cohorts that we bring together repeatedly over many months to build relationships, strengthen collaboration skills, explore different views on issues, and work together to address urgent challenges,” Bubman explained.
Each of the participating counties will have 7-member volunteer teams facilitated by their respective county coordinators.
Bubman said the group organized the local anti-violence project “because targeted violence is a critical problem that faces our country, and it’s getting worse.”
Pennsylvania’s effort is one of many URA sponsored activities, each project reflecting what local organizers define as important.
“For example, we’ve focused on public health in New Mexico, and consensus-building for incarceration reduction in other states,” Bubman said.
“We think that there are many interrelated social, economic, and political dynamics that contribute to violent actions against others. We will help the Uniters analyze those causes in a systematic way as part of this program, and then help them design projects with their community partner to address those causes,” Bubman continued.
In response to the question: What about the issue of targeted violence interests you? one applicant wrote: “My sister is a member of the LGBTQ community and has been the victim of physical violence and intimidation because of her sexuality. Her experiences have helped form my sense of social justice and the need for communities that support each other. I have always believed that we achieve more when we raise each other up than when we tear each down. A simplistic view, I know, and certainly not profound, but there is truth in it. History is full of tragedies created by the act of ‘othering’ marginalized groups in attempts to gain power and control.”
There comes a point when that narrative has to change, and it’s this type of work that brings that change. Targeted violence against others “degrades our society” Bubman said.
Although it’s not involved in the project, Lancaster LGBTQ+ Coalition recently received a $25,000 grant from Pennsylvania’s Security Fund Grant Program to pay for improvements to“the safety and security of our current housing locations and our health clinic opening in early 2023,” according to Karen Foley, the coalition’s executive director.
“We live in a time of increased targeted violence against LGBTQ+ individuals and families, as well as focused attacks on our basic rights,” Foley said in recent newsletter, noting that “concern for the safety of our staff and volunteers has slowed our progress with initiatives and programming.”
One aspect of the region’s project will involve training in media literacy and how to critically evaluate media reports is part of the effort.
“Being able to separate out data-based claims from what someone may, for example, think and feel about groups against whom violence may be targeted is part of our training,” Bubman told the Capital-Star. But getting involved is not all policy wonk games. “We change it up with chocolate truffle tasting,” he said chuckling.
Bubman concluded by observing that although homicides in the U.S. go up and down, “there’s been an uptick in targeted violence, a steady incline in the country.”
By focusing on a specific set of risk factors that lead people to target people because of their group identity, Bubman said,” We can make more progress using volunteers.”
This article by Frank Pizzoli originally appeared in the Pennsylvania Capital Star and has been syndicated with permission.