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Forum discusses programs serving at-risk youth

Jan. 19. 2010

The Forum of Jan. 19 concluded an informal series of sessions in which speakers addressed the Forum about programs designed to mentor youth. At the end of the Jan. 19 Forum, the floor was opened for comments about those programs and the others that had been mentioned during the series. Below are those comments.

The Forum operates as a public forum and all are welcome to be present. But it is this website's policy generally not to identify by name those persons who speak at the Forum who did not agree in advance to be a speaker. This is an effort to honor people's privacy on the Internet, while allowing this record to share with the larger public the issues discussed and the ideas and arguments presented.

Ellipses in the text below generally mark elimination of identifying details. In a few cases, ellipses mark inaudible comments.

 

"Everybody's program is great. And I'm not saying you have to give up your program, but there is indeed money for grants out there but [those grants require] collaboration. There's money out there but we need the coordination piece....

"We've heard about nine or 10 groups and all of them are doing great things."

 

"What we need now is to create a grid, a matrix, make it available online, make it available probably in the newspapers to be able to publish and then disseminate it to the community about what each of these programs have as their immediate profile, what the application dates are, what the fees are, all the necessary information, so that within the community, parents, teachers, counselors, whoever it is can have a way of seeing everything that's out there -- not everything, we'll never know everything -- and make wise choices and see where they want to move their kids.

"Maybe they were doing something at an existing program, but they need something additional, they were involved in First Tee but now something at their church makes sense for the summer, wherever it happens to be. I'd be happy to help."

"I actually was going to say something very similar.... I am trying to educate myself on all that is currently available in Charlotte, and figure out how we can make appropriate partnerships with existing organizations.... In April I'd be happy to have a meeting in our space, inviting all those organizations together, so we figure out a way to share information, number one, and two, share with the community what's available."

"My remarks are more in terms of comment and observation. What always concerns me, when listening to all these programs, when you talk about reaching out to family members and advertising yourself, it seems to be a bit self-selecting. I'm always concerned that the people who show up for meetings are not the people I want there. I want the people who don't show up. How do you reach out to them?

"I think my concern has always been, if you have a parent that is concerned enough to bring their child to a program, the fact that a child is concerned enough to volunteer to go to a program, is half the battle. If you've got a concerned parent, you've almost won the race. How do you find the unconcerned parent, the child who is troubled, the child who doesn't know about it, the child who doesn't want to be associated with anyone, who doesn't have a concerned-enough parent to reach out. That's the observation that I wonder when listening to all these things. How do you go to the door behind the door where a troubled youth is, grab them and bring them into the program? That's my observation and I don't know how you do that. When they show up you've won the battle."

"Through the years I hear of partnerships, but I have also run into the culture of these organizations and entities that are providing the funding, and how when they go into meetings they have already decided what they want, what they're going to do. So they're not as interested in getting more voices to the table, because they've already decided.

"I wonder how you address that whole thing, that when people are talking about partnerships, they're not really comfortable in many cases with having other voices, voices who haven't been at the table. This is one of the things I found out when watching what happens with minority children: that in many cases things are planned for them, the parents are not encouraged. That's why many parents just throw their hands up and say 'I can't do anything with my kid' because we have been, from birth, jumping into their lives and helping them to feel that they have nothing to offer. It is something about the culture: When we say 'partnership', it's just another word that we're using to get into the lives of people to change how they feel about themselves, not to get them involved but to get them to a place where they begin to trust us more. Because when I hear partnerships I'm going to trust that organization. But now when I hear partnership I'm saying look closely at who you're dealing with. People can wind up doing something [detrimental]....

"You talk about stuff that's rotten. But there is a spirit that was introduced to me as a child, and a God that turned something that looked like it was bad into something that was good. And I'm hoping that as we do this, putting this grid together, that that will be new life to our community."

"Yes, when folk do come together, or when a meeting is called, sometimes decisions are already made before folk come. That concerns folk. And some folk, because they have been burned by a couple of groups in this community, whenever those groups call a meeting, then many of the African-American organizations will not show up because of the distrust."

"Most of the people in whatever group we have, are the same people who are in the school system and are being unsuccessful there. The biggest social experiment that we did is education. And if we don't do something about elementary school, we're going to need more and more and more of these organizations. If we take all these organizations and bring them together and get their butts in the seats of the Government Center and demand that we start educating our children, then you all can all go home and close down all of these [organizations]. I'm being very serious. You can all go home if we can convince [City Council District 5 member] Nancy [Carter] and her group to get with [Supt. Peter] Gorman and his group and convince them that we need good schools in every neighborhood, and good neighborhoods all over this city, you can disband 95% of all these organizations."

"I think your idea of having it all on a grid so citizens can be aware, not only citizens, individuals who are within organizations or groups or even the police department, the judicial system can be aware of these organizations and programs so when they see these people behind the doors they can recommend to them that, hey, there's this program out there, I'm giving you so many days, instead of doing this I want you to go in this type of program.

"These programs collectively are what it takes. You may pick up some kids that dropped out of some other program.... That doesn't mean the other program was a failure, but it just wasn't a fit. Your program may be just the fit for the knuckleheads who didn't get it in school, didn't get it in a church program, but they got it from you...."

"I think that I've learned in my... years how this country works, and how this community works. And one of the things I've learned is that we love to talk about free enterprise and innovation, and then we try to press it down into one big old shoe, where it's tight. Because we don't want to see things new, so we gather them up in one big pile so somebody can control it. Americans don't like free enterprise. Americans don't like innovation. We're scared of it.

"The only way that the tech sector was allowed to create this [iPhone] that allows me to stay away from my computer day in and day out is because a bunch of crazy, smart, young people started to challenge the existing hegemony of the way things got thought about. Innovation is going to occur in the kind of things that this young man described. Innovation is not going to occur in institutions. I've been a part of them too long, and I've watched them do everything other than innovate, and become hidebound in practices and traditions that no longer work. These organizations, and everybody knows the organizations I am talking about, they just change procedures, they create new paradigms.

"The grid is wonderful because it is an information piece. But when we get a bunch of people, a bunch of community leaders, a bunch of politicians sitting around a table and deciding on who ought to get what money, it is designed for one reason, and that is the perpetuation of the status quo -- the perpetuation of somebody's bailiwick. Whoever's bailiwick is going to get perpetuated is the bailiwick that's got the most friends in high places. I have sat in high places so I understand that. And that's who we protect, we older people. But I've also been a stifler of innovations because I happen to like my friends.

"So if we are going to get a coordinating group together, you know if every time there's a meeting of social service agencies, every time there's a meeting of the Chamber of Commerce, every time there's a meeting of governmental agencies, we're trying to stop somebody from innovating. We're trying to stop somebody from doing something. Because we have to keep control. And I have watched it and watched it and watched it. It's one of the reasons I left social services, one of the reasons I left teaching, was because of that.

"I hope we don't go creating another social service coordinating agency that's going to stifle the kind of organization that I heard described today."

"I've been coming to these Forum for the last two, two and half months. [My mentor] knew I had started a youth group that was similar to all these other youth groups that have been coming here. And the only reason I have been coming is really to see what everybody else is doing, so then possibly we could collaborate, somehow, some way, hopefully in the future. But it's been tough: We're all doing the same thing, but we're all running different races. I would really love to get this grid together because I've been hearing about it for a long time but nobody's been doing it. I want it to get done because I want to be able to contact some other programs and schools in the area so we could actually work together. I'd never heard of [all the programs mentioned at the Forum in the last three months]. We're all helping the same kids."

"It seems like everybody's focusing on from about [age] 11 on. What about before that? Because it seems like it's almost too late with some kids at that point. When kids are older they're more mobile, they can get there themselves. But when they're younger, if you don't fix the problem early on, then you have a bigger problem later on."

"All programs aren't created equal. All programs can't serve all kids. They're culturally sensitive. They have all these things that not all kids need. Therefore they aren't duplicating services.... We don't have to re-invent the wheel. There are some great models out there throughout the country. And it's obvious we need some coordination in our community. All these programs, this is my third meeting and I've heard of five programs already. If there is no coordination then we can potentially be serving the same kids, we don't know that we're serving the right kids and then we may be missing all of the kids. We just need to make sure that we have that coordination and I'm certainly interested in working with a group to make sure that, do the work, do the study, then make sure we do the coordination."

"In listening to all that I've heard about our youth and all the people who are doing whatever, there is a concern that I have that led me to sit down and talk with at least three of the people who presented, outside of these meetings.

"Each one of those people have the same fear, and there are some dynamics going on that we need to be aware of. Each one of the groups can take children so far. We need to go beyond that. The problem is that groups are starting to shop one another, and rather than assist you or help you or expand your program I'm going to steal your program or replicate your program. And it seems to dilute the effectiveness of all of the programs. Some of that's happening, so you're going to have some, 'I've got to hold it close to my heart and protect it because if I don't --'

"When the reverend from the church down on Oaklawn came to speak with us, Ricky Woods, he made a comment, right then, that there's another church, Friendship, that's looking at doing a very similar program. 'And I don't mind giving it to them; don't steal it. Let me give it to you.' Well, there's a lot of, let me pattern mine after yours and I'll call it something different. And we're serving all the same clientele.

"So as you move forward trying to coordinate data, understand that maybe an informational grid is all you need, as opposed to someone who actually, physically is responsible for coordinating, because when you do that you've got to pick and choose, and that's not going to work. Charlotte is not like that any longer."

"That's where that distrust comes from. People even on the day that Ricky Woods spoke were talking about, there were people in the room who were taking notes, taking information...."

"I've heard twice now this issue of distrust. And as a newcomer to this group over the last 12 months, as an outsider to the community, I'd like you to educate me about, when you say distrust, what do you mean, which groups are you referring to.... I need to know what I need to know."

"You ask and you'll find out. Outside the door."

"There must be amongst the kids who are in schools those who are, if not up there as role models, but even the average kids who are doing OK, I would venture to guess that, if you ask any kid, 'Give me the names of five kids you know who are lost souls in one form or another.' Those kids would be able to tell you who their peers are, and that that would be one way to begin to identify who's behind some of those closed doors."

"When we say we need to look at elementary, I would take it earlier than that, to early childhood.... There needs to be focus on young teenage mothers because when you start that early you do it with less money and you also get into that parent part of it, which is the most critical part, and that is the part we seem not to feel comfortable with."

"'You can't teach what you don't know, and you can't lead where you don't go.' That's Dr. Carter G. Woodson, the father of black history. It took him 30 years after he got his Ph.D. at Harvard University, 30 years to get an authentic education. That ought to tell you something about the rottenness of the school system. Here's a man with a Ph.D. from the best university in the country, allegedly, the best university in the country, had to get 30 years of self-study to get an education. Woodson also said this: 'The average African-American' -- he used Negro in those days -- 'the average Negro with all the finishing touches of our best institutions are all but worthless in the development of their people because they have been mis-educated.'

"So if we don't start educating ourselves, we can never expect the Charlotte-Mecklenburg School System or any other related school system to educate our people.... I'm saying that people who have already beat the system in certain ways, and there are other successful blacks. I don't consider success necessarily the one with financial wherewithal; there’s more to success than that. But until we can understand what Jesse Jackson said many years ago -- 'Nobody will save us from us but us.'...

"Social justice. The oppressor will never do that until you demand it. That's why I go back to Frederick Douglass again: 'Power concedes nothing without a demand.' Unless when you're teaching these young people you're teaching them that there's something wrong with how they got themselves into the position they're in, and how to get out. It's not just by changing their behavior, it's changing the behavior also of the system that put them in this.... We've got to get into how we get social justice, how you make demands. You can't make demands until you get people together."

  

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