Use the strengths of our youth to fight gun violence

There’s no magic wand that can be waved to end – or even reduce – the epidemic of deaths and mayhem coming from the reckless or criminal use of guns.  The Journal Sentinel called for a Summit to begin a dialogue in the Crossroads section (April 26), focusing mainly upon our political and community leaders.

As commendable as that may be, we feel that our most affected neighborhoods can’t wait for another summit to put into effect strategies that would end their continuing exposure to death and injury by gunfire.  It is within our neighborhoods that we find the best prospects for creating the effort to effectively reduce the tendencies of some to use guns irresponsibly and dangerously.  There are also dozens of community organizations working day-and-night to create peaceful and attractive neighborhoods.  There are churches preaching peace and setting up havens of safety.  And, there are thousands of young people living in these neighborhoods who long for safety and for opportunities to play, to go to school and to meet their friends without fear of being victims of bullets.

It’s time to acknowledge the strength that lies within the residents of the neighborhoods and employ those strengths in this most worthy effort.

The Coming Together Partnership to Prevent Gun Violence has made its major mission to support these neighborhood efforts with particular emphasis on building leadership potential among the youth of our communities.  This partnership involving gun violence prevention initiatives of the City of Milwaukee, the Medical College, Children’s Hospital of Wisconsin and Community Advocates is in its third year.

We have seen the tremendous talent and dedication of the young people of our city.  That was demonstrated at two well-attended Coming Together Summits attended by an equal number of youth and adults who work directly with young people.  There was Kavon Jones who works with a youth project of the ACLU and told the Summit last December of his efforts to work with younger children to urge them to resist the urge to pick up guns.  Marcello Robinson of the Holton Youth Center told the Summit that his life changed for the better once he began attending sessions at the Center.   “If I can do it anyone can change their ways,” he said.

The Coming Together Partnership has used its limited resources to support community programs aimed at working among youth to end gun violence.  In 2014, the Partnership provided modest grants to six community youth programs that included support for the Bridge Project, creation of a music video, a neighborhood outreach program and others.  For the summer of 2015, the Partnership is providing “Change-Maker” grants to six programs, all aimed at developing youth leadership for gun violence prevention efforts.

In his Crossroads column (April26) James Causey called for a collective effort.  The Coming Together Partnership also recognizes the need for building connections among all of those involved in gun prevention and youth development activities and is hoping to create more opportunities for networking to help strengthen this vital campaign.

Too often, we see only the negatives among the youth of our city and overlook the positives they possess.  They offer the hope for the future of the city and we believe the success of preventing gun violence requires they be full partners.

Milwaukee’s young people and their families need to be completely engaged in this community crusade!

(Coming Together Partnership for Prevention of Gun Violence includes Community Advocates – Milwaukee Brighter Futures Initiative; City of Milwaukee Health Department Office of Violence Prevention; Medical College of Wisconsin – Violence Prevention Initiative; and Children’s Hospital of Wisconsin – Project Ujima.)



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