Unitas Therapeutic Community, a treatment and prevention program for youth in South Bronx, hosted an all day conference for a delegation of peacemaker representatives from Rwanda and Uganda on May 18, 2015 to exchange a dialogue about conflict resolution and peacemaking interventions applicable to situations of high stress in both Africa and the United States.
Unitas was selected for this exchange by the Smith College School for Social, Work in Northampton, Massachusetts which received a special grant from its State Department of Cultural Affairs to bring this group of African educators, clergy, community leaders and artist peacemakers to the United States for this intercultural dialogue on conflict resolution and peacemaking.
Unitas was founded by Dr. Edward Eismann in 1968 when he was a mental health clinician at Lincoln Hospital. Discouraged by lack of response to formal mental health services for troubled alienated youth within a hospital setting, Eismann took to the streets, formed bonds with these youth on their own streets and hangouts and enlisted their cooperation to become helpers to each other and their neighborhood children. They learned how to become “caretakers” to each other and resolve interpersonal challenges through talk negotiation to replace violent acting out. He created “healing circles” right on the street itselfand then into schools with all youth coming together to reflect on “getting along better with each other and learning how to settle problems peacefully”. It is not without good reason therefore that Unitas with its peacemaking goals and strategies was chosen as the host for this prestigious African group to visit and learn from.
The agenda for the day’s dialogue consisted in a warm welcome by Richard Sherman, Chair of the Board, an historical review of this South Bronx community from its Fort Apache days to its present revitalization by Dr. Ian Amritt, Executive director of Unitas, a tour of the area and schools by Jose Gonzalez, Program Director and Antirson Ortiz, Prevention Counselor. Dr. Eismann spoke of the origins of Unitas and then engaged the African visitors and other guests from Massachusetts as well as local community representatives here in an Unitas “healing circle” for the sharing of peacemaking stories and strategies for expanding peacemaking efforts of mutual concern to all.
For additional information on Unitas, please see its website at unitastc.com or call 718-589–0551.