COMMUNITY MEDIATION SERVICES HISTORY
In January 2011, TPPL merged with CMS. Prior to that time, CMS had its own rich tradition. What follows is a summary of that history.
Community Mediation Services, Inc. (CMS) was founded in 1994 to resolve conflict peacefully and with justice. We educate the greater New Orleans, Louisiana, community about mediation, restorative justice, and other forms of conflict transformation, and provide mediation and training services on a sliding fee scale. CMS has trained peer mediators and grassroots mediators; conducted victim-offender, neighbor-neighbor, family and organizational mediations; supervised AmeriCorps mediators; and conducted workshops on various conflict-related topics. We piloted the establishment of four Community Justice Centers using Restorative Justice practices. CMS has no salaried staff and operates from grants or fee-for-services.
Mediation offers win-win solutions as alternatives to litigation and violence. Combined with facilitation, restorative justice practices and training in various forms of conflict transformation it allows people to design and implement their own strategies for solutions to personal, family or community problems, and preserve relationships in changing family and community systems.
We see our consistent strengths over the 16 years of our existence as falling into three areas: 1) Leadership development: We have given many young people guidance and the opportunity to put their ideas into action. Countless young leaders credit our early support for some of their later success. 2) Diversity and Learning: Our group has always been diverse in terms of age, race, background, education, and expertise. We value and seek to achieve cultural competence. We have created a climate in which we can all grow, learn, and change, often through dealing with our own internal conflict in creative ways. 3) We have been available, flexible, and responsive in dealing with community needs.
Dec. 12, 1994 Vincent Memorial Legacy (of Trinity Episcopal Church) granted us (then Trinity Mediation Services) $1,650 for start-up costs.
Aug. 1994 Foundation for the Mid South provided $1,500 to train bi-lingual or racial minority mediators.
1996 Institute of Mental Hygiene awarded a staff development grant of $1,000 for four counselors who worked with minority students to attend the Undoing Racism Workshop held by the People’s Institute for Survival and Beyond.
From 1994-2000 CMS successfully completed peer mediation training programs in public and parochial schools under grants from the Louisiana Learn and Serve Commission, the Institute for Mental Hygiene ($10,000 in June of 1998), Weed and Seed (a U.S. Justice Dept. Program) $5,000 in Feb. of1998, and the Greater New Orleans Foundation. (See addendum for 1995-1997 sampling.)
In 1995 CMS initiated the first victim-offender and parent-child mediation program in the Greater New Orleans area. Judge Salvadore Mule of New Orleans Juvenile Court and the Family Mediation Council of LA were partners in developing the program.
In 1997, CMS partnered with Trinity Counseling Center to offer parent-child mediation to clients at low or no cost. During same year, CMS provided parent-child mediation through the Orleans Parish FINS program.
In 1998 we broadened our peer mediation program by partnering with Tulane/Xavier Campus Affiliates Program (CAP) to work with school faculty, parents, and students in schools serving the C.J. Peete Public Housing Development to learn how to use effective and fair alternatives to violence in situations involving a dispute. CAP also provided a line item in their budget for us to continue our work with conflict resolution for 6-10 year olds at the Safe Havens in the Lafitte and Iberville Housing projects begun under Weed and Seed. These projects were staffed with social work interns and community volunteers interested in earning a stipend and honing their skills.
From 1998-2002 CMS served as the fiscal agent for nine Mental Health Undoing-Racism Trainings presented by the People’s Institute for Survival and Beyond.
In 2003-2005 CMS served as the parent organization for the Anti-Violence Coordinating Committee formed to use the New Orleans Black Panther story and experience (year 1970) to promote understanding and mitigate violence. CMS provided @$4,000 to train former Panthers in conflict resolution and make funds available for the Panthers to train others, facilitate disputes and make presentations to University and community groups.
2006. Just a few months after Hurricane Katrina hit our region, CMS was approached by the National Association for Community Mediation (NAFCM), asking us to train and supervise AmeriCorps community mediators. This became a very productive 3-year project with $30,000 of assistance from Mercy Corps (Aug 2006-May 2007). AmeriCorps stipends and administrative duties were provided by NAFCM. NAFCM also held two of its National AmeriCorps trainings in New Orleans. CMS helped with logistics. Additional grants for the program came from the Greater New Orleans Foundation ($3,000 from the Rebuild New Orleans fund) and the Institute of Mental Hygiene ($5,000 in Sept. of 2006 and $2,500 in Nov. of 2007). Mercy Corps also hired Zarin Miller of Aegis Systems to build organizational capacity for CMS by holding visioning and planning sessions, re-writing bi-laws, and reviewing corporate structure and governance.
From 2007 to the present CMS has held at least four Restorative Justice Trainings for community activists.
Jan.-June of 2009 CMS served as the fiscal agent for a grant of @$7,000 from the Louisiana Endowment for the Humanities to fund two public forums, “Free the Angola 3 and all Political Prisoners” (held May 20,2009) and “Black Panthers Speak to Post-Katrina New Orleans” (held June 3, 2009). Both were well attended and well received. Evaluators commented that they had rarely seen such diversity in an audience.
INTERNATIONAL INVOLVEMENT: Mediators Beyond Borders which sends a cadre of highly qualified mediators to conflict-prone and disaster-ravaged parts of the world dispensed a team to work with CMS to assist in New Orleans’ recovery. They provided training for mediators and support for Community Justice Centers (a good idea that has yet to really take hold).
CMS promoted Conflict Resolution Day on Oct. 16, 2008. The Mediators Beyond Borders team presented a training. The day before, Oct. 15, the New Orleans City Council read a proclamation and honored community peacekeepers selected by CMS board members.
In June of 2008 the International Visitor Leadership Program, under the Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs of the U.S. Dept. of State, asked CMS to lead a discussion with government and community leaders from 13 African countries to enhance participants’ understanding of U. S. perspectives on the use of dispute resolution and/or preventive diplomacy in domestic and international situations. A further goal of the program was to provide an understanding of various techniques for mitigating or resolving a variety of conflicts and/or disputes resulting from ethnic, religious, socioeconomic and regional differences. Susan Norwood and Nell Bolton lead the discussion. Nell has lived in Africa and done peacekeeping work there. She spoke to the group in fluent French while the rest of us had the benefit of simultaneous-translation ear phones. Word from the organizer was that our presentation was “by far the visitors’ favorite in New Orleans and they were sorry it had to end.”
Compiled by Orissa Arend and Susan Norwood, July 19, 2010