Read insights from our President’s Listening Tour
Enabling Communities

We’re ready to be recruited—but not by gangs and drug dealers

On April 7, I had the privilege and honor of co-facilitating a Listening Tour session with the president & CEO of The Skillman Foundation, Angelique Power. This meeting was attended by youth living in Detroit. We were able to speak on things that impacted our lives as we grew into being independent teens and young adults.

When I walked into the meeting room, the youth weren’t really socializing with each other. To solve this problem, we started with an introduction circle and played a game of “Two Truths and a Lie.” (Most youth told two lies and one truth.) The game was a way to make everyone comfortable and to create a safe environment where people could speak their minds. After the game, most of the youth seemed comfortable with the other attendees and we began to talk.

One thing that was stated was how one of us lost four friends before the age of 11. Another was how most people nowadays have guns and are willing to kill over little things. Also, another talked about how they experienced their friend getting jumped over something that was harmless.

We were asked about what we thought could help change our neighborhoods. We answered with things like parks, playgrounds, babysitters, therapists, and rec centers. These are things that we thought could prevent young people from falling across the wrong path.

Next, we were asked about racial equity and justice and most of us didn’t know much about them. The reason for this is because of our independent ways and how we focus on things in front of us.

We were asked who motivates us. Some said our parents, some said the organizations they are involved in, some said themselves. We talked about how with determination, you can do anything.

Then, we were asked about what we needed. We responded with things like time, money, and leadership support for young men and women. The adult program directors that joined us also spoke about what they needed. They responded with things like an increase in pay with benefits and time to do things for themselves.

For most of us, we reflected on a time when things were safer when we were six-to-11-year-olds. And we reflected on the times we are in now as 15- to 22-year-olds. We have seen violence occur, often because people are foolish and don’t know any different. Guns and gangs (crews) are common. The internet and social media play a role in this.

All in all, I think that we all agree things need to be put in place to address our poor education systems, provide us with community spaces and police that protect our neighborhoods, improve the public transportation system, and most of all, offer recruiters. Recruiters that are not from gangs or drug dealers. Recruiters that will mentor and support us and be willing to help us become thriving adults.

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