Sunday, April 1, 2012

New Orleans Communities Come Together in Youth Summit

From our friends at Juvenile Justice Project of Louisiana:
On Saturday, March 24th 2012, youth from around the city of New Orleans came together for the first ever Power of a Million Minds (POMM) Youth Summit at Dillard University.

POMM is a youth led, youth organized, and youth run collaborative comprised of five youth serving organizations in the city of New Orleans. The youth come from all over the city including the African American, Latino, and Vietnamese American communities. Our five groups include Fyre Youth Squad (FYS), The LatiNola Youth Leadership Council (LYLC), Kids Rethink New Orleans Schools (Rethink), Vietnamese American Young Leaders Association of New Orleans (VAYLA), and Young Adults Striving for Success (YASS).

These five youth groups have been working together for over three years to build cross-cultural relationships and increase diversity in dialogue on critical issues that our young people are facing in New Orleans including issues of equity in education, employment, juvenile justice, and advocating for more youth voices and community involvement.

The goals of the collaborative are to problem solve issues that impact youth in our community, improve the quality of the educational system in New Orleans, create and sustain local youth organizers, and create positive working relationships between organizations and residents.

At POMM's first Youth Summit for middle school youth to college age participants, over 100 youth came together for a full day of consensus building, workshops, and live entertainment. The goal of the summit’s theme, “YOUTH(NITED) WE STAND!” was to allow dialogue between the different communities of youth, identify the key issues that are plaguing our city, and identify the possible solutions to these issues. The general assembly provided a space for youth to identify the problems they face and the solutions to those problems. Youth participated in “harvesting the genius from within themselves.”

Common problems identified included the need for better schools, more big sister/big brother programs, drug dealers in neighborhoods, lack of access to text books, lack of practical sex education classes, the need for better teachers, additional youth programs, innocent children being killed, boys don’t have anywhere to go for recreation and socializing, a lack of role models, the need for more playgrounds, recreational centers need to be repaired, the lack of vocational programs, trash in the neighborhoods, no jobs for the youth, low wages for youth, not enough community centers, existing community centers need to be repaired, the lack of community-based drug rehabilitation programs, increased parent involvement, and community sports teams.

Common solutions identified included building playgrounds, building recreational centers, cleaning up the parks, bringing concerns to the city council, using social media to communicate POMM’s message, hands on neighborhoods, planning city wide clean up days, decreasing the crime rate by providing education and employment, creating community service programs, taking care of our playgrounds, putting recreational centers in many diverse communities and not in one location or neighborhood, investing and creating neighborhood community businesses, creating personal treatment programs for youth, student peer education programs, helping stop the drug use, and identifying and cultivating relationships with adult mentors.

After the general assembly, break-out sessions were held on a variety of topics. The Youth Summit held workshops including the “School to Prison Pipeline,” “Know Your Rights,” “Equity in Education,” “How Haterism towards Youth Hurts the Future of New Orleans,” “Theater of the Oppressed,” “Knowing Our Real History,” and a digital media workshop. Youth participated as student teachers as each workshop was interactive and designed to tap into the knowledge base of the youth and increase upon it.

After the workshops and lunch, DJ AKT RIGHT kicked off over three hours of live entertainment that showcased local talent such as TEAM SNO, Michael Jackson of NOLA, K Levy, Keedie Black, NO Meezy, and featured socially conscious local rapper Dee-1. All performers stressed the importance of coming together to solve our own problems and that we can work united towards our common goals.

The goal of the event was to move more young people to become engaged in problem solving issues in their communities while allowing for a platform that addresses the needs of youth today. The summit will be used as the catalyst to start a citywide youth movement in New Orleans.

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