Metropolitan Nashville Mayor Megan Barry held a summit / community conversation to bring community leaders, Metro departments, local non-profits, and members of the faith community together to identify problems and potential solutions related to youth violence.
Lonnell Matthews, Director of the Mayor’s Office of Neighborhoods and Community Engagement, is leading the effort by bringing stakeholders together for the summit, in addition to helping direct research into programs and policies that have worked in other cities across the country. The meeting had a standing-room only audience in the Pearl-Cohn Magnet High School Auditorium on Monday, December 14, and featured two impressive panel discussions moderated by Lelan Statom.
After a welcome by Pearl-Cohn Principal Dr. Sonia Stewart and opening remarks by Councilman Ed Kindall, Mayor Barry set the stage by saying, “After two years in a row when our homicide total dropped below 45, that number has climbed to 67 in 2015…And many of those 67 people were young. 36 of them were between the ages of 13 and 25.”
To bring the problem clearer into focus she continued, “51 of those 66 victims – more than 77 percent of them – were African-American. As a city, as a community of people who care about each other’s health and safety, we can’t stand for this. We need to be doing everything in our power to make sure we don’t hear these kinds of numbers and see these kinds of stories anymore.”
The mayor then gave the group these marching orders: “By early March, I want a concrete action plan that builds on the foundation we already have in place to prevent youth violence; identifies challenges and needs; articulates key principles, goals and objectives; incorporates input from a broad array of partners, community members and youth; acknowledges where our resources are limited; incorporates best practices and important lessons learned from around the country, but also aligns our plan with the collaborations that are already taking place here and that are unique to Nashville; lays out a framework and blueprint for achieving success in reducing and preventing youth violence; and includes an accountability process for measuring outcomes.”
Providing a strident and optimistic ‘Voice of the Youth’ was Hillwood High School senior Daquan Summers, who electrified the audience with his heartfelt expressions.
The discussants around economic opportunity & family support/mentorship were Juvenile Court Judge Sheila Calloway; Criminal Court Clerk Howard Gentry; Councilman Bill Pridemore, District 9 & Budget/Finance Chair; Chief Steve Anderson, MNPD; Tony Majors, CSO, MNPS; Carla Aaron, Executive Director D.C.S.; Rev. Dr. Chris Jackson, IMF; Ron Johnson, Oasis Center R.E.A.L. Program; and Pastor Breonus Mitchell, Greater Grace Temple Community Church. They were followed by a panel on environment & mental health/well-being, with Public Defender Dawn Deaner; State Rep. Harold Love Jr., District 58; Councilman Doug Pardue, District 10 & Public Safety Chair; Fred Carr, COO, MNPS; Dr. Bill Paul, Metro Health; Jim Harbison, Director, MDHA; Glenn Funk, District Attorney; Steve Nellums, Metro Parks; and Walter Searcy, NOAH.