One America Voices: Samantha Owens

Samantha Owens

Washington, D.C.

Trainer, Over Zero

1. You work at Over Zero, an organization that works to reduce and prevent identity-based violence. Can you tell us about your role there?

A: Happily! I am the Trainer at Over Zero, which entails everything from building partnerships to delivering in-person trainings. As an organization, we focus on the role communication plays not just in fueling violence, but in preventing violence, like you said, and building peace. We all work together pretty closely, which I love, but I would say my specific focus within the ‘big picture’ is figuring out who to engage and how best to work with them. The goal is to identify actors already working in this space and/or groups and individuals who have the potential to make a really tangible impact in their communities, then equip them with insights and tools that will be useful in their efforts to counteract divisive communication and communication that targets specific groups based on their identities.

2. You spent over a year in Sarajevo researching conflict at the Post-Conflict Research Center. Tell us about that.

A: Bosnia and Herzegovina (BiH) is a really interesting case study in what ‘peace’ really is and how we define it. Active conflict in BiH ended over two decades ago, but many would argue, and I would probably be one of them, that the ‘peace’ there is actually in a lot of ways a frozen conflict. The country’s political infrastructure is built on segregation and division and, largely as a result of that, we see interethnic tensions once again increasing. During my time working in peacebuilding there, I would say the biggest lesson I learned was to never take peace for granted. Peace takes a lot of work, and we see that across contexts.

3. You just moved to Washington DC. What is your favorite part about the city so far?

A: I really love the energy of the city and being surrounded by people who are passionate about what they’re doing. I also feel like, maybe because people are coming and going a lot, people are generally really inclusive. I really appreciate that there are so many neighborhoods with distinctive characters. I’m from Chicago, which is also a “neighborhood” city, so the layout makes it feel familiar and homey even though I am still pretty new.

 

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