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Rally Calls for End to Youth Violence

Margaret Summers | 8/28/2013, 3 p.m.
The Rev. Dr. Deborah Brooks, from the Family Healing and Empowerment Institute of Prince George's County, feels youth violence is still a major cause for concern. She participated in a rally earlier this month in Suitland, Md. Nancy Shia

A small but vocal group of 13 people, many of whom mentor African-American youth and families, rallied earlier this month to protest the killing of Trayvon Martin, and the acquittal of his killer, George Zimmerman. The event, which was held at the Mt. Ararat Outreach Center, 4809 Suitland Road in Suitland, Md., also focused on what organizers called the “senseless violence” taking the lives of hundreds of young African-American males in Prince George’s County and nationally, and how to end it.

“It’s not about the numbers (of participants), but getting the word out,” said Willie Wimbush, 46, a rally organizer. “If we only preach to one person today, we’ll do that.” Wimbush is the president of the Suitland Recreation Council, and Suitlandfest CDC, an organization working to improve troubled communities through education, entertainment and recreation.

According to the annual report of the Maryland Governor’s Office of Crime Control and Prevention for 2012, the number of juvenile homicide victims in the state decreased 58 percent since 2007. The report also said the 23 juvenile homicides in 2012 happened to be the lowest number ever reported since the Maryland State Police began compiling figures in 1990.

But rally participants like The Rev. Dr. Deborah Brooks, feels youth violence is still a major cause for concern. Brooks, a minister and counselor, provides assistance and support to African-American youth in Suitland.

“My heart bleeds for parents who have lost children through violence, especially violence from authorities (police),” said Brooks, 54. “But my heart really hurts for young people who are victims of family violence,” she said during the Aug. 10 rally.

Brooks said family violence is largely caused by frustration felt by young people who have babies, are unprepared for parenthood, and lack support and assistance. “We used to say ‘It takes a village to raise a child.’ But now that village is gone,” she said.

Often, young parents don’t know how to be mature, responsible role models for their children. “Boys wear their pants sagging below their waists because there’s no father around to tell them to pull their pants up,” said Brooks. “We’re seeing 30-year-old grandmothers who aren’t taking care of their children or grandchildren because they’re partying in the clubs.”

Brooks hears about more incidents of incest and child abuse within families, and of children breaking into their parents’ homes. “There’s anger, disappointment and fear among youth,” she said. “We parents need to step up and help them. Even if you’re not a parent, you can help.”

Kevin Hicks, president of Concerned Black Men of Prince George’s County, said he wants more elder African-American men to mentor and counsel young African-American males. “I also want to get our boys involved with war veterans, who can tell them what war really is,” said Hicks.

Darrick Johnson, 50, is an actor who believes in using art to give people power over their lives. “It’s up to us men to be responsible for African-American youth,” Johnson told the group. “People say there are no leaders today as there were in the past when we had Malcolm X and others. But what about us? What about you?”