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Youth discuss ways to combat surge in city violence

YOUNGSTOWN — Effective ways to reduce violence in the city, if used consistently, would empower young people to avoid negative choices that often lead to such acts, participants in a Youngstown youth roundtable say.

These involve positivity: Providing opportunities to tap into their talents, avoiding immersion in negative social-media sites, and making self-assessments and assuming accountability for oneself and in the home.

“You have a voice and you deserve to be heard. Let the youth know they matter,” Latasha Moore of Cleveland said Thursday evening at Lighthouse Covenant Ministries on Shehy Street on the East Side.

Moore was one of four moderators who discussed relevant topics related to the recent spate of violence that continues to plague the city. Many of the estimated 30 who attended were young people.

Police continue to investigate the fatal shooting of Persayus Davis-May, 10, in her Samuel Avenue home around 2:27 a.m. Wednesday on the South Side, apparently the result of a feud between adults outside. Police Chief Carl Davis said a possible link exists between that killing and the shooting death of Michael Callahan, 40, who was found dead of gunshot wounds in his pickup truck on Palmer Avenue.

Later Thursday, police found a video of a red or burgundy GMC Terrain sport utility vehicle that was reportedly at the scene of both killings.

Too often, many youth feel overlooked and that their perspectives don’t matter, so it’s vital to also provide them with opportunities to tap into their talents and to excel, Moore explained.

Another challenge is that many young people are immersed in Snapchat, Instagram and other social-media sites, and that much of what they see and read is negative. That’s one reason creating a safe space for them to be open about their feelings, views and thoughts is vital, Moore continued.

Additional crucial pieces are making self-assessments and assuming accountability for oneself and in the home. Failing to do so often plants the seeds that grow into much bigger problems, Jeremyiah Womack, a fellow moderator, said.

It’s also crucial to form genuine connectivity with young people — especially in today’s high-tech world and cellphones, said Womack, who added that more churches need to connect with one another and meet young people on their level, rather than pressure them to adhere to certain religious perspectives.

“Too many youth live in a box,” and are privy to hatred, violence, drugs and other negative forces in their daily lives, Malik Pierce, another moderator, said.

“I believe it is up to all of us as people to come together and put our voice out there,” Pierce added.

A teen in the audience implored others to stop automatically judging many young people as thugs, drug users or criminals. Much of the crime in the city is the result of a culture in which many of them are raised or taught to believe revenge is the best way to handle conflict, he said.

Another major problem for many young people is an absent parent, especially the father. Consequently, some look for love, stability and other fulfillments via negative outside sources, several panelists and attendees noted.

The violence in Youngstown won’t cease overnight, but a powerful tool for steering young people in positive directions is to listen consistently to them and perhaps set up a support system for them, Womack continued.

Thursday’s roundtable discussion had been planned several months ago in light of the uptick in violence in the city, the Rev. Michael Scott Sr., Lighthouse Covenant Ministries’ co-pastor, said.

Another corrosive effect of the recent violence is seeing “one shooting after another” as less shocking and becoming desensitized to the long-lasting effects and damage each one causes, the Rev. Wilena Scott, Michael Scott’s wife and church co-pastor, added.

Reaching at-risk youth via mentoring, prayer and mediation efforts is key so that they are far less likely to view violence as a first option in dealing with their frustrations, Michael Scott added.

“I hope the young people feel open to discuss their thoughts, and that (they realize) people care how they feel,” he said.

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