GANG PEACE SUMMIT
DOWNLOAD a 36-page PDF copy of the peaceCENTER’s clip file on the Gang Peace Summit.
- 500 people attended, including gang leaders, gang members, families, community leaders, religious leaders, city officials, ex-gang members, mediators.
- Four warring West Side gangs agreed to a cease-fire.
- East and South Side gangs sat at the same table; although they did not reach a “truce,” they did talk to each other without violence.
- “Week of Peace” declared in San Antonio by the Mayor and City Council.
1993 was the year of the highest crime rate among young gangs in our city. Solution-making tables could be found throughout the community with the number one measure of choice being the arrests of our young people. It was a conveyor belt that seemed to be going nowhere.
After hearing about the impact that a gang peace summit had in Kansas City, some of us began to engage the situation and our faith in different ways. We took into prayer and later into action what we learned from Kansas City organizers—that it takes all sides coming to the table to work for and make peace; peacemaking among our young is just as important as between two warring countries; the best peace solutions can be found inside the people who are in the midst of the violence; and that there is a spiritual crisis at the root.
We learned that the making of peace and community would take people of faith stepping into the public sphere. On January 1st, 1994, one hundred letters were sent to leadership of all kinds and in every quadrant of San Antonio inviting them into the organizing process. Twelve people came together and sat in a circle at the first gathering. In less than a month 200 were gathering on a weekly basis!
We were many faith traditions – Christian, Jewish, Muslim, Native Americans, Buddhists, and many others. We were women, men, young, old, and demographically reflected San Antonio. Planners and participants brought the very best parts of themselves into the preparatory process – ideas, resources, networks, hope!
There are 100s of stories that are told about the impact of the 1994 San Antonio Gang Peace Summit – specific prayers that were answered, city leaders that were initially opposed to the idea and later the strongest supporters, necessary funding that was significantly provided by the Chamber of Commerce, mediators coming from across the country to aid in gang truces, grandmothers and gangsters working together in the same room, peoples of different faiths praying for peace in a church sanctuary, and much more. But the most significant stories are the fact that seven gang truces were formed over the weekend and the largest drop in crime in our city historically occurred the following month.
The peaceCENTER was born in that event as peace organizations, citywide agencies, and faith groups began to work together more intentionally. The summit birthed a major shift in the organization of our community at large: we became interdependent.
Excerpt from “Peace is Our Birthright: the p.e.a.c.e. process and interfaith community development” by Ann E. Helmke and Rosalyn Falcón Collier (peaceCENTERbooks, San Antonio, TX, 2003) p. 23-24.
Article in the SA Current: Drive-By City: Remembering San Antonio Gang Violence in the 1990s