INDIANAPOLIS — The city’s increase in gun violence is no secret, especially after the holiday weekend. Three of the recent shootings happening in busy, public places.
On Wednesday, the Indianapolis Youth Commission released a statement regarding recent violence in Indianapolis, expressing condolences for the families affected and offering a deeper perspective on the violence.
“We know that violence does not simply exist in isolation, but is an interpersonal manifestation of trauma, lack of access to resources and systemic inequality. It is imperative that we as a community understand the impact of mental health, poverty and disconnectedness on our neighbors, children, coworkers and fellow citizens,” the statement read.
Indianapolis Youth Commission is comprised of 10 young people from around the city. The new group was formed this year through a partnership between VOICES Corp, MCCOY and the City-County Council. After being sworn in, the group officially started meeting at the beginning of last month.
Brandon Randall, director of engagement at VOICES, works with the commission to discuss the challenges facing the city. He said the commission is also an opportunity for young people to use their voices.
“If we are seeing young people involved in gun violence, then obviously young people are hearing about it," Randall said. "They know why it’s happening, but they can offer solutions on how to interrupt that behavior."
Randall is trying to break the cycle of not just violence, but also how we approach it.
“Until we get to a point where we have empathy for other humans and we don’t want to see other people hurting or be harmed, then it is not going to slow down because we are always going to compartmentalize that, ‘oh well it is that side of town’ or ‘it’s young people’ or ‘it’s people that look a certain way’ and that’s not the reality of why crime happens,” Randall said.
Last weekend, Randall lost one of his former students to gun violence. Sadly, he’s lost more than 40 young people in the last decade. He said it is extremely difficult, but he doesn’t let that stop him.
“Yes, I lost another student, but that same day I had two students call and say they started their new job. I had another student call and ask for a ride to work,” Randall said.
He said the support should also be coming from the whole community through volunteering, mentoring and employment opportunities.
“We can’t be everywhere at all times but what we can do is be accessible to the ones that want us to be there and for me that’s all that matters,” Randall said.
With the increase in violence, Randall also said it’s amazing people and stories in Indianapolis are often being overlooked because of the shootings.
“People need to understand that Indianapolis is not just producing crime, they are producing leaders. They are producing amazing systemic changes that are happening,” Randall said.
He said it’s also important to realize changes won’t happen overnight. They take time.
“People think because you get crime prevention money or you are working in the streets, that you are supposed to provide this miraculous immediate change,” he said. “But it didn’t take an immediate change for crime to happen so obviously the solution isn’t going to come immediately either.”
The commission is calling on local and statewide elected officials to prioritize policies, proposals and legislation that provide more funding and resources for the youth and mental health treatment.
They are encouraging more young people to get involved and use their voices.
VOICES is starting its “Power & Promise” program Thursday. It runs until Aug. 12 and offers youth leadership, civic engagement, youth business development and peer mentoring training. It’s open to those 13 to 24 years old.
This weekend at Frederick Douglass Park Circle Up Indy is also hosting 5th annual Peace Festival on Saturday from noon to 7 p.m.
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