People in conversation

Watch: Peace Conference 2023 Panel, Community Institutions as Cornerstones of U.S. Peacebuilding

Last week four of our partners and alum—hailing from New York, Virginia, and North Carolina—travelled to Washington DC to appear on a PeaceCon 2023 panel, “Community Institutions as Cornerstones of U.S. Peacebuilding.” 

The Alliance for Peacebuilding's annual conference, PeaceCon's 2023 theme was Beyond Fragile Ground: New Peacebuilding Architectures for Today and the Future. It convened senior officials, thought leaders, policymakers, and practitioners to explore innovations, new strategic approaches, and architectures to manage conflict and prevent violence during times of tectonic geopolitical shifts.

Our panel, cosponsored by Generations for Peace USA and the 92nd Street Y's Belfer Center, focused on the influential role that cornerstone institutions—community groups, local government, schools, and nonprofits—play in building a culture of peace in the United States.

We were thrilled to have an outstanding panel of civic and community leaders who have dedicated themselves to the principles of peace, inclusion, and belonging.

  • Harriet “Betsy” Hayes, PhD, is an Academic Associate at Essential Partners and Dean of the Rhodes School of Arts and Humanities at Bridgewater College. Betsy has been engaged in the campus-wide dialogue initiative at Bridgewater for more than a decade.
  • Beverly Braxton is an Essential Partners alum and founder of We the People Warwick (WTPW) an all-volunteer grassroots movement whose mission is to foster dialogue, identify common ground, build connections, and bridge divides among community members. A public school teacher who retired in 2010, Beverly is the recipient of numerous teaching awards and honors, including awards for Exemplary Community Service and Accomplishment.
  • Mitchell McKinney is an Essential Partners alum and the Deputy Chief of Police for the Town of Apex, North Carolina, who has served in law enforcement for 26 years. Deputy Chief McKinney has prioritized community outreach and partnership throughout his career and was elected president of the 71st Session of NC State University AOMP School and President of the 1st session of NCACP Police Chief Leadership Institute. He is a member of the International Association of Chiefs of Police, the North Carolina Association of Chiefs of Police, and the North Carolina Police Executives Association.
  • Rhonda Hopps is the Executive Director of the Comer Education Campus in Chicago, IL, a unique Chicago model for place-based youth advancement that includes a youth center, middle and high school, youth education garden, medical clinic, and public library, serving 2,000 South-Side Chicago youth annually.
  • Rebekah Shrestha leads the Belfer Center for Innovation & Social Impact at The 92nd Street Y, New York (92NY), a nearly 150-year-old community center for culture, connection, and enrichment in NYC. In her role, Rebekah oversees the development of new social impact initiatives, including their new community-led U.S. peacebuilding initiative Share Our America
  • Lindsay McClain Opiyo, the panel moderator, is an Essential Partners alum and the Executive Director of Generations For Peace USA, a non-profit that engages children, youth, and adults in the United States in inclusive dialogue and collaborative action to transform their communities into places of safety and belonging for all. Lindsay leads GFP USA’s day-to-day operations, including a community dialogue project on place and belonging in Nashville, TN where she lives, implemented with 92NY and Essential Partners.

Feeling inspired? Join our global movement of peace-makers and community-builders! Register for an upcoming workshop (scholarships are available) or reach out for a one-on-one consultation with a member of our program team.

A writer, translator, and editor, Daniel Pritchard serves as the Director of Marketing and Communications for Essential Partners.