Local leaders and teenagers will participate in a Youth Unity Walk Against Violence Sept. 22 from the Police Athletic League to Rogers Elementary School.
The walk is in response to the rash of local violence that has claimed the lives of two adolescent victims in one month, and six teens in 2009.
Led by Manatee County NAACP’s Youth Council, the demonstration will be the latest in a series of forums and demonstrations against community violence. Teens are expected to walk from the Police Athletic League, 202 13th Ave. E., to Rogers Elementary School. The walk will begin at 6 p.m. After the walk, the group will gather at Rogers to discuss solutions and ideas for curbing violence along local streets and in neighborhoods.
The council decided to act not long after 17-year-old Bayshore High School cheerleader Jazmine Thompson was shot after a Sept. 4 football game.
“The walk gives the youth a chance to tell the community how they feel about it, as well as bring some perspective to the issues,” said Ederick Johnson, a Manatee High School junior and vice president of the council. “It’s important because often you have some adults who think that all the youth are up to no good, that they’re all selling drugs or doing things they’re not supposed to do but we do have young people who are trying to make a stand in what they believe in.”
“It’s the youth doing this, which makes it extremely important,” said Manatee County Commission Chair Dr. Gwen Brown. “When you have young people wanting to give input as to what’s happening, it’s not just adults making decisions. It’s our youth saying, ‘This is our community, not the dope boys’ or the gang bangers’. This is our community and we don’t want any more of our friends caught up in that kind of ignorance.’ ”
Xtavia Bailey, Florida director of the Amer-I-Can program, said word is spreading throughout Manatee County high schools, and she hopes as many as 200 will attend.
“It’s got lots of good support from high school kids,” Bailey said. “Some are taking off football practice to tell us what’s going on and how we can help them. Kids are overwhelmed and they’re ready to speak.”
“They don’t want it to be a black thing, a white thing a Hispanic thing,” Bailey said. “They want it to be a unity thing, a coming together to begin to fix the problem. They want their safety. They want to go out and have fun without losing their life innocently.”
For more information, call Bailey at 526-8080.