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Community forum discusses local violence
Community members met on Dec. 30 at the J. Ashburn Jr. Youth Center to open up a new channel of dialogue concerning the rising violence on the city’s Westside.
About a hundred neighboring adults attended this “Stop The Violence/Start The Healing” discussion, where they listened to a panel of the community’s youth.
“We have a proliferation of drugs, guns, anger, and self-hate, and that means w
e have a powder keg,” Executive Director Keith Neal said. “We have to address problems that we never saw in our lifetime.”
Neal added that in his own time of youth, he was never confronted with the type of media and negativity today’s young people are forced to face with. As a result, he said kids are now attacked in ways they never thought of. In order to help them, the community needs to start talking with the youth about what can be done.
“They’re sick of people talking at them and not to them,” Attorney Byron Potts said. “That’s what they told me, that’s what I hear.”
According to Neal, with children dropping out of school on the Westside in record numbers, and Columbus being the first in homicide and assaults in Ohio, the community is at war and it is up to them to start taking care of their own community instead of waiting for the police to clean it up.
“We have to do something about it. The police can’t be everywhere all the time,” Neal said. “Where is the decency amongst our fellow man – have we lost that?”
The panel of youths consisted of young adults between the ages of 8 and 20. The forum, led by Potts, asked the panel to address their own definition of violence, respect, and the topic of snitching and their feelings towards police.
“I want to hear them say what’s going on. Why are there so many shootings and killings, and what are some of the solutions – because nobody’s talking to them,” Potts said. “…this isn’t a dog and pony show like we’ve been having.”
The topic of violence varied in responses from the younger and older members of the panel. While the older panelists defined violence as wrongful acts of anger, the younger panelist voiced that they saw violence as a way to gain respect.
However, defining violence is just the start. Potts prompted the panel to elaborate on what are some ways to decrease violence.
“I think that communication is everything,” panelist Robert Shepard said. “If people can’t talk to their parents, then it means nothing.”
Shepard, along with other panelists, voiced that something they feel is lacking towards today’s youths is having somebody in their corner – whether that is a father figure or mentor that can trade respect and be a guiding factor in their lives.
The Ashburn Center planned this forum as a way to begin an open discourse with the community’s young people and better understand not only what the driving forces of violence are, but what they need to help them overcome today’s societal hurdles.
Potts emphasized the buck cannot stop here, but the communication must continue to define the problems, and make accommodations towards change.
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