Young, Gifted, and Determined — Exploring Violence and Peaceful Solutions in America’s Cities


By Megha Goel

According to the Center for American Progress, from 2008 through 2017, Ohio had the 20th-highest rate of gun murders, with 3.96 gun homicides per 100,000 people. Moreover, while only 13% of the population is African American, about 69 percent of the state’s gun homicide victims are black. On any given day, America’s youth are met with a barrage of violence — in their schools, neighborhoods, through media and technology, or in their household. Attention is needed to bring change and to improve the quality of life for kids and their communities. With constant exposure to violence daily, what is the impact on their long-term success into adulthood? And how can organizations like EYEJ empower youth to speak out and take action against community violence?

The July 16, EYEJ Speaks episode entitled Exploring Violence discussed the myriad of ways young people are exposed to violence in their lives and outlined solutions for empowerment. Moderated by Kenyatta Skyles, Producer of EYEJ Speaks, the panel included insights from a compelling lineup of speakers:

EYEJ Founder Mai Moore set the tone of the conversation by saying that the tragic Trayvon Martin shooting sparked the foundation of EYEJ seven years ago, “We asked the kids what kind of violence do you personally experience in your community. We gave them nine options, ranging from gun violence, gang violence, bullying, sexual violence, verbal violence, physical fights… and the data is spread across the categories evenly. 23% of the kids state violence to be a major stress.” From the youth perspective, Yumi states the topic of violence stems from the police-youth relationship: “Being a part of the Youth Council, I have heard a lot of stories related to gun violence. Kids are often taught not to trust law enforcement or the police, so they don’t have other ways of protecting or relying on other people… it’s a problem that needs to be battled head-on.” Some of the other program highlights include:

Exploring Violence

Relationship Building to Successful Community Policing

The Youth Perspective of Exploring Violence

Key Takeaways

  1. Let black kids be just kids. Parents need to talk to the youth about the reality of inequity and the possibility of change, healing hope, and new idea solutions. The criminalization of young people out on the streets and other discouraging police behavior has caused youth to resort to violence to protect themselves. Also, video games, media as well as television influence youth behavior. “38% of the youth said that they learned about violence from the news,” affirms Mai. The media has incredible responsibility in portraying only the negatives of what is happening in the African American community. Parents need to ensure that children see and hear stories about black heroes and not just blacks being victims of oppression. Change can happen only when black kids are allowed to be just kids. Irrespective of the socioeconomic backgrounds, parents need to help youth process what they see and manage their feelings.
  2. Mentoring, educating, and recognizing youth’s interests and supporting them in achieving their goals is paramount. If you really want to help your children, encourage them to explore subjects that fascinate them. Investing in the future is crucial to our community’s future. Please provide them with platforms and opportunities to voice out their thoughts. These youth have been victims of generational trauma coming from their families and communities. We must unburden them and encourage them to manifest their dreams. Kids need to grow up well to become future policymakers, legislators and to take positions on issues. “Who better to protect us and our neighborhoods than somebody who has been there and understands the community,” shares Miguel Geno Tucker, Founder & CEO, Remember Us Urban Scouts.
  3. We cannot address our community's issues without the partnership, understanding, and engagement of the community members. Sgt. As a member of law enforcement, Leon spoke about CPOP, The Community and Problem-Oriented Policing Plan that calls for officers to devote at least 20% of their workday to non-enforcement activities with the community. She adds, “recruiting service-minded individuals who reflect and resemble the demographics and ideals of the community helps create and maintain partnerships.”

Our youth representative Yumi Ndhlovu concludes, “We are working on getting broadband internet and connectivity in Cleveland. We need more black people and kids in the media to represent our community. Media is controlled by people that are traditionally white and not people of color. Not everybody is truly represented. Also, the media is a great source of information and education.”

The EYEJ Youth Council is undertaking some impactful work to address the issues of Broadband access in Cleveland. Learn more about this work and support the Day of Giving Campaign on July 24th.

View the full episode of EYEJ Speaks on Exploring Violence on our Facebook page.

Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion is the next episode of the Facebook Live discussion series on Thursday, July 23, 2020, at 10 am EDT. Please be sure to RSVP on Facebook or via Zoom to be part of this community conversation. Listen to the behind-the-scenes conversation with guests on the EYEJ Podcast on Apple Podcast, Spotify, and Google Podcast.



Empowering Youth Exploring Justice

EYEJ drives social justice reform by empowering young people to advocate for change.