The Park Hill community is home to about 7,500 African youth, mostly from Liberia and Sierra Leone, countries torn apart by civil war. A large percentage of the refugee youth in the community experienced war directly, impacting the youth and their families long after resettlement. These experiences also impact the larger Park Hill community, introducing new cultures and new needs. The challenge is that even before the African youth arrived in the neighborhood, Park Hill and its resources were overburdened with extreme poverty, drug addiction, gang violence, and staggering youth incarceration rates. African refugee youth were placed in the middle of this already-boiling stew, with explosive results. Many African youth, already exposed to violence and drugs in Liberia and Sierra Leone during the war, turned to dealing drugs in Park Hill. Shootouts and drugs busts were a nightly occurrence, and Liberians who came to Park Hill to escape the war instead found themselves in another war zone. From 2003 to 2008, murder in the 120th precinct, which includes Park Hill, more than doubled, while murder in the five boroughs of New York City tumbled nearly 25 percent.
In response, "Ceasefire" is a citizen media and community empowerment project, which will take place in the Park Hill neighborhood of Staten Island, New York. The aim of the project is to bring together African-American and African youth who have been torn apart by neighborhood violence and racial tensions. Through the Ceasefire project and its component workshops and youth task force, both African-American and African youth will learn how to work together to end gang violence and use citizen journalism to bridge the differences in their community. Another component of the project is the Youth Task Force, which is a partnership between the International Rescue Committee, Century Dance Complex, and African Refuge, the umbrella organization under which Ceasefire would work. The youth task force will be an ongoing collaboration between a group of African and African-American youth who meet once a month to dialogue about issues facing the community, giving residents the opportunity to voice their concerns and hopes for the community, and to mobilize the community for a common goal.