Students engage with interfaith panel aimed at decreasing violence

Tiffany Rice (right), mother of slain Evanston teen Dajae Coleman, speaks about her work to end violence, along with Anya Cordell (left). Rice and Cordell, another community activist, shared with the audience their plans to reduce violence and bigotry in the community Tuesday evening in Harris Hall.

Melody Song/Daily Senior Staffer

Tiffany Rice (right), mother of slain Evanston teen Dajae Coleman, speaks about her work to end violence, along with Anya Cordell (left). Rice and Cordell, another community activist, shared with the audience their plans to reduce violence and bigotry in the community Tuesday evening in Harris Hall.

Rebecca Savransky, Reporter

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The Interfaith Advocates and the Chaplain’s Office organized a panel discussion Tuesday focused on motivating students to come together as a community to combat violence.

About 15 people attended the discussion, called The Word Against Violence, where anti-violence advocates Tiffany Rice and Anya Cordell engaged students with suggestions about how to modify a culture that fosters and supports the institution of violence.

This event was the first in a two-part initiative by the Interfaith Advocates. On Thursday evening, the group will host a discussion and poetry slam.

“We wanted to do something we felt would bring issues relevant to different people to the forefront,” said McCormick senior Keryn Wouden, a member of the Interfaith Advocates. “Whatever your beliefs are, violence in Chicago is something that everyone can come together on.”

Throughout the event, Rice, anti-violence advocate and mother of slain Evanston teen Dajae Coleman, talked to students about the importance of addressing violence through a hands-on approach.

“It takes us getting up and attacking the issue physically to produce change,” Rice said.

Rice emphasized the importance of targeting young people and creating programs that encourage them to stay away from violent groups. Cordell spoke about the need to move past stereotypes based on appearance and engage with individuals in one-on-one discussions to promote a decrease in hate crimes and other forms of violence.

“As hard as it seems, invite someone actually into your space and be an ally for some group that is somehow other than whatever you identify as your group,” Cordell said. “It’s hard the first time, but it’s doable, and I think once you do it, you reap the rewards of it.”

Members of the Interfaith Advocates, a group created this year geared toward initiating conversations among people of different faiths, planned the event as a culmination of a year’s worth of smaller firesides and discussions. The group, consisting of eight students of different faiths, hopes to inspire building relationships and taking action against injustices. 

“Everyone, regardless of their faith, has things they can do collectively to fight violence in Chicago,” said Weinberg sophomore Jack Furness, another member of the Interfaith Advocates.

At the end of the discussion, students asked questions ranging from why race remains such a prominent method of dividing individuals to what some of the primary contributors to the rise in violent activity are.

Students said they drew inspiration from this discussion and agreed with the importance of establishing a collective community to fight violence.

Weinberg sophomore Arkar Hein said the discussion made him realize that violence doesn’t only occur within a small community.

“As students from NU, we hear about violence, and we think we’re immune to violence and in our own bubble, but we’re really not,” Hein said.

Wouden said the event inspired her to take action against these issues within the community.

“Change has to start at the personal level,” Wouden said. “You can’t expect everyone else to change unless you change first.”

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