Forum for Reducing Violence Benefits Community

Published: March 26, 2019 | By: Greater Cedar Rapids Community Foundation | Category:

Nonprofit organizations form when hardworking people who care about their community come together to address the issues we face. The goal of community betterment creates a lens through which they view the world, keeping an eye open for opportunities to inspire, educate and impact those around them.

“I saw Adam Foss in Boston, and his presentation just really spoke to me,” explains Okpara Rice. As the CEO of Tanager Place, Okpara works every day to improve the lives of kids. Foss spoke about criminal justice reform and preventing young people from falling into a life of violent crime. Okpara, thinking of the kids he sees every day at Tanager Place and recent violence in Cedar Rapids, filed it away as something that could benefit our community.

Then Okpara was having a conversation with Joe McHale, who left the Kansas City Police Department to become Marion’s Police Chief. “He asked me if I’d seen this documentary, and he offered to put me in touch with the director.” The documentary, called Uncommon Allies, follows a mother who loses her son to violent crime, thereafter committing herself to working with police to end violence.

“We started looking at ways we could put this together with various community partners and how we could get these people to our community,” he says. Part of that process was applying for a grant from the President’s Fund at the Community Foundation.

On February 15, Adam Foss spoke to nearly 350 people in Coe College’s Sinclair auditorium. The crowd was made up of middle school students, local politicians, nonprofit leaders, college students and law enforcement officers. A former prosecutor in Boston, Mr. Foss explained how he now works with prosecutors to reform young offenders while keeping them out of the criminal justice system. He spoke with passion, often directly to the youngest members of the audience, who he called the civil rights leaders of the future.

On February 23, Tanager Place hosted a public screening of Uncommon Allies. The documentary illustrates how open dialogues can restore trust and breed safety within a community. “The film really speaks to the power of what a community can accomplish together,” Okpara says. The screening was followed by a Q & A with director Jon Brick and Captain Tim Hernandez of the Kansas City Police Department.

Okpara and Tanager Place were able to bring these important conversations to our community because of the President’s Fund and other community partners. “We want all kids to be successful,” Okpara explains, “and we really view it as our responsibility to use our stance in the community to start the conversation on how to make that happen.”

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