Forum on breaking the cycle of violence to draw experts, producer of “The Interrupters” documentary film

New ways to prevent or reduce community violence will be the topic of a Tuesday, Sept. 6 public forum with UC Berkeley experts in education, public health and social welfare joining local leaders and the producer of a critically acclaimed documentary about breaking the cycle of violence.

“The Interupters”

The UC Berkeley Education Issues Forum at the David Brower Center, 2150 Allston Way in downtown Berkeley, will be free and open to the public. Co-sponsored by UC Berkeley’s Graduate School of Education, Graduate School of Journalism, School of Public Health and School of Social Welfare, the forum, “Interrupting Lives. Curbing Violence in Our Communities: Is There Hope?” will run from 7-8:30 p.m.

It will feature a short clip of the film “The Interrupters,” debuting in area theaters Sept. 2-7, by the award-winning documentary “Hoop Dreams” producer/director Steve James.   Best-selling author-turned-producer Alex Kotlowitz, will join the evening forum discussion.

The documentary tells the story of three of 120 self-described “violence interrupters” who work through a Chicago-based group called CeaseFire: The Campaign to Stop the Shooting, to try to protect their communities from the violence they themselves once employed. CeaseFire began in 2000 in West Garfield Park, one of Chicago’s most violent neighborhoods, and the group reports that it  reduced shootings by 67 percent in its first year.

“This riveting documentary and moving story is an excellent backdrop for all of us in research, journalism, education and the community to directly address the root causes and most promising solutions to the violence epidemic, and what has seemed an intractable problem in urban communities and schools for decades,” said Judith Warren Little, dean of UC Berkeley’s Graduate School of Education.

Kotlowitz, also the author of “There Are No Children Here, The Story of Two Boys Growing Up in the Other America,” said that when schools become a place of refuge rather than learning, “it doesn’t matter how bright, how motivated, how aspirational one is, if each day you’re confronted by the potentially explosive violence to and from school, or the profound poverty of your family, or an absent father, or a sibling lured by the streets, it will be virtually impossible to learn.”

In addition to Kotlowitz, other Education Issues Forum panelists will include:

Jabari Mahiri, a professor at UC Berkeley’s Graduate School of Education, chair of its Language, Literacy and Culture Program, and a senior scholar for the Question Bridge: Black Males Project.

Emily Ozer, an associate professor at UC Berkeley’s School of Public Health who examines school and community-based interventions, violence prevention, promotion of mental and physical health among adolescents and trauma and post-traumatic stress disorder.

Ron Smith, a West Oakland Middle School principal who coordinates a community health center, a major modernization project and curriculum redesign.

Susan Stone, an associate professor at UC Berkeley’s School of Social Welfare who researches family and school influences on child and adolescent school performance, especially for urban and at-risk children and youth.

Cynthia Gorney, a professor at UC Berkeley’s School of Journalism and a working journalist, who has also written for New York Times Magazine. She will moderate the panel.

More details, including relevant research reports by participants, are available at the “Interrupting Lives” website.

In partnership with other schools on campus, UC Berkeley’s Graduate School of Education launched the UC Berkeley Education Issues Forum in September 2010 to tackle tough public education issues. The first of the series, “Grading the Teachers,” stimulated by the controversial Los Angeles Times series by the same name, convened journalists, lawmakers, public policy experts and measurement specialists from UC Berkeley and Stanford University.