The people of South Bend speak honestly about the violence

SOUTH BEND – Me’kel Mitchell knew many faces on the giant poster honoring the townspeople killed by gun violence in recent years.

The article covered two tables placed near the entrance to the Century Center so that it could be seen by Mitchell, who graduated from high school in 2016, and others attending Sunday’s HOUSE forum.

The event was organized by community activists, including Kintae Lark, as a call to action to respond a particularly violent October.

Lark said HOUSE stands for Healing, Organization, Unity, Solution, and Empowerment. He said he wanted to give residents, and especially people under the age of 30, a chance to express themselves.

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“We have to be able to process and we have to be able to have a place to express ourselves as adults. And if we need it as adults,” he said, “our babies have it. really need.”

Mitchell, who has lost relatives and friends to gun violence, has spoken openly about the impact the losses have had on him.

“I feel like it takes a piece of me personally because you don’t wake up and see your friend anymore, and being only 22 and seeing so many people dead, it hurts me all. days, ”he said. .

Sigma Gamma Rho sorority member Aja Ellington reads a poem at the HOUSE Forum for Teens and Young Adults held at the Century Center on Sunday.

He said he woke up several days with tears in his eyes after hearing reports that someone he knew had died violently.

And the numbers show that it is often Mitchell’s peers, young black men, who are killed. Ramona Bethany, who heads South Bend’s Group Violence Intervention Program, said 87% of the city’s 23 homicide victims in 2020 were male and 20 of them were black.

Sunday’s forum brought together around 50 parents, educators, community activists and students for honest discussions about the causes of violence and the role each group can play in combating it.

Participants gathered in Discovery Hall where they split into groups and talked about the issues that cause violence and what can be done to stop it. The groups were divided by age with one group made up of parents, another group of high school students and young adults, and the last group made up of educators, people who work with young people and concerned citizens.

Participants expressed concern about the limited number of positive outlets, especially for adolescents and young adults, which lead to violence.

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“… We need to hold parents to account,” said Edward Thomas, a father of three teenagers. “We have to take some of those old school mindsets that our parents had and bring them into a new era because when we were young our parents held us accountable. They were parents and not our friends.”

Thomas said political leaders must also be held accountable for not doing more to ensure children and young adults have the same opportunities regardless of their economic status.

Leeanna Witherspoon, a teacher at Dickinson Fine Arts Academy who attended the forum, said she saw brawls, arguments and other acts of violence among students at the school and hoped to hear suggestions on what she could do to fight them.

Among the causes of youth violence, “Some people said there was no parental involvement,” she said, describing the interaction within her small group at the forum. “Some said a lack of resources and a lack of things to do for the kids. Some felt like they were because of emotional stress, depression and economic issues … Lots of things.”

For Witherspoon, she believes that giving children a space to talk about their feelings and seriously dealing with the mental stress they face goes a long way in addressing some of the emotional factors that contribute to violence.

Arabia Brumfield, one of the young adults attending the forum, said young people in her neighborhood see few positive role models and have few opportunities to participate in meaningful activities, although many want to.

Without guidance, these young people do not learn skills, such as conflict resolution, and disputes between them escalate, often through social media, she said.

“I always thought that when I was older I would see black people as a community,” she said, “but we are apart and that bothers me”.

Email South Bend Tribune reporter Howard Dukes at [email protected]

Follow him on Twitter: @DukesHoward


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