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Twin Cities youth touch on the impact of violence and making their voices heard

Twin Cities youth say proposed safety plans don't include their voices. They want to change that and have a seat at the table.

MINNEAPOLIS, Minnesota — The youth are the future. Yet many times, those same people aren't included in spaces where decisions are being made that directly impact them. 

"We are here because there's power in the youth but yet we are not heard enough," said Kanandi Mack, 10, and Andwele Mack, 7. 

Monday afternoon, American Friends Service Committee and Youth Undoing Institutional Racism held a press conference at North Commons in Minneapolis. It included Twin Cities youth, ranging in age from 7 to 25 years old. 

The group says proposed safety plans by city leaders don't include their voices, especially as violence impacts them in their communities. 

"The omission of our youth voice in these proposals further isolate us from the decision-making tables," said Elijah Kamau, 19. 

Malaki-Milton Jackson, 19, added, "Merge the kiddie table with the adult table. Allow us to inform the work that affects us, the youth." 

Recent violence in the Twin Cities includes three Minneapolis children who were shot, two of them killed. 

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"I hate that people my age are getting hurt in my community. I don't like being scared of gunshots all the time," Kanandi Mack said. 

They are asking community leaders, decision makers, teachers, educators, nonprofit leaders and lawmakers to: 

  1. In terms of safety we are asking that we not rely on police intervention at the threat of violence. Both currently and historically, police presence has not equaled safety. We need to include creative approaches to safety that are personalized to each community. A generalized approach is not applicable to every situation.
  2. In terms of resources we are demanding a consistent flow of resources that are distributed equitably and are integrated into a young person's life before they are introduced into the criminal justice system.
  3. In terms of the language used surrounding violence affecting youth, we feel that the language too narrowly focuses on the deficits in our communities and not enough on our strengths, creativity and ambitions. We are asking that we be seen fully and embraced for our inherent leadership abilities.
  4. In terms of policy surrounding violence affecting youth, we feel that the primary focus is on punishment and not enough on addressing the underlying systemic issues caused by the lack of resources in our communities. The violence currently unfairly impacts black youth. We are asking for intentional space to be created at the decision-making tables for all youth to influence policy decisions regarding violence and its impact on us.
  5. In terms of youth leadership we are asking decision makers to be consistent with their efforts at re-investing in leadership opportunities for youth. Opportunities such as paid fellowship and internships at all levels of non-profit orgs, for-profit orgs and government offices. 

The group is also asking their peers to step into their leadership potential. When it comes to trauma, they say funding for youth-led, trauma-informed and healing-centered engagement needs to be a priority. 

In a press release, the group said, "As the youngest leaders in our society, we demand that we are invited to the decision-making table to influence how and where these resources will be distributed."

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