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Chicago youth dispel stereotypes

By Starla Muhammad -Staff Writer- | Last updated: Sep 20, 2013 - 11:23:29 AM

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Chicago area youth speak to press, community on the positive work they do in the city. L-R: James Andrews, 19, Matthew Crittle, 19, Deanna O’Neal, 16, Kevion Green, 18, Jacqueline Smith, 23, Jaylon Tate, 17 and Gloria Lawson, 21 all participated in a summer job training and community service program. Photo: Starla Muhammad

CHICAGO (FinalCall.com) - Tired of media’s constant reporting and focus on drive-by shootings, gang-banging and negative activities of Black youth, Chicago area teens and young adults held a press conference and program where they outlined their positive works in the community. They also demonstrated they, too, are concerned about their neighborhoods and social justice issues.

Youth participants in the Community Violence Prevention Program (CVPP) rolled out three initiatives they worked on during the summer they hope will help make a difference in the city’s South Shore neighborhood and other areas at the Sept. 11 press conference held in front of their peers, mentors, and a staffer from the office of recently elected U.S. Congresswoman Robin Kelly (D-Ill.) and media.

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Summer youth program provided avenue to meet new friends. Photo: Stay Focused Media
“Our young people are saying that they are tired of being depicted as murderers and robbers and people that infringe (on) negative and violence in our community. We believe that the young people are behaving far more positive than they are negative,” said Victoria C. Brady, Program Manager for CVPP and Executive Director of ABJ Community Services, Inc.

The initiatives announced included: bringing attention to the need for a trauma center on the South Side, Movement of People for Peace (MAPP) to address violence and, lastly, a campaign to confront and prevent underage drinking. The young people in CVPP decided which campaign they wanted to work on.

“Underage drinking is important because it just doesn’t affect the person who is drinking whoever the underage drinker is. It affects the whole United States,” said 17-year-old Jaylon Tate, in explaining why alcohol consumption among young people is a serious issue.

The culmination of Jaylon and his group’s research was a brochure they produced that cited important facts including that young people who begin drinking before age 15 are four times more likely to develop alcohol dependence and are two and a half times more likely to abuse alcohol.

Two Public Service Announcements were debuted featuring several of the students on the perils of underage alcohol consumption.

Black youth are interested in much more than partying and the CVPP gave the young people the chance to delve into issues that concern them.

Absence of a trauma center on the South Side of Chicago has been a huge concern for residents, especially for a side of town plagued by violence. A trauma center can many times make the difference between life and death.

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Youth workers of the Community Violence Prevention Program attend press conference. Photo: Stay Focused Media

“We need it (trauma center) because if you get injured the most critical time is the first 14 minutes. So if you don’t have a hospital or any type of center nearby, you have to go way out of your way just to get the help you need,” said Kevion Green, 18. 

Destinee Richardson, 22, wanted those in attendance to understand that Black youth have much to offer and said media neglects to focus on the positive. Give youth a chance, she said.

“We’re here doing something positive every day but you don’t see the media giving positive feedback about that. You’ve got to look at the surroundings around the South Shore area. Half of the South Shore community is not as bad as everyone thinks, it’s really not,” said Destinee.

“If they give us youth a chance, then we can take a stand and do something that can be positive. The media just bashes us for whatever we do, whatever we wear or stereotype us and we just feel that’s not right.”

James Andrews, 19, said being involved in the peace initiative for his community reminded him of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. and the fight for doing what is right for the betterment of the community. His group tries to lend comfort to family members of those victimized by violence.

“For me to be a part of the movement that was so impactful, thus far it’s amazing,” he said.

Sierra Mitchell, 19, said the CVPP allowed her to meet people from all over the city she may never have ever met were it not for the opportunity the program presented.

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“These types of programs help you open your eyes to see that we are not just killing each other. We are not just fighting each other, that we can actually be friends from different neighborhoods, from different backgrounds, different family and jobs,” said Sierra. Programs like this are needed, she added.

Formerly, Neighborhood Recovery Initiative, CVPP is funded through the state of Illinois and through its Youth Employment Program, nearly 2,000 area youth were provided with mentors, summer jobs and take part in community outreach.

ABJ Community Services along with Black United Fund of Illinois, Illinois Criminal Justice Information Authority and other organizations offered the CVPP.

Founded in 1993 by Dr. Vivian R. Jones, ABJ offers various programs to the community. Dr. Jones and other adults offered words of encouragement and praise to the young people who completed the programs. It was also announced each one would receive a certificate. Like many programs, lack of funding is a challenge, one that Dr. Jones and the youth said is deliberate when programs are shown to work.

Dr. Jones said it is important to delve into the talents of young people because they have so much to offer so financial assistance is needed.

“Remember this. No great movement in the United States of America has ever occurred unless there were youth involved. Every great movement in this country came on the backs of our young people, every one.

For additional information about ABJ and the programs offered, visit www.abjchicago.org or call 773-667-2100

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