‘My children have been losing their friends’

While kids played in the park out back and teenagers hung out in the parking lot, dozens of adults filled a room at the Mountain View Community Center Tuesday night. They gathered to answer an urgent question: How to prevent the violence that keeps claiming young Anchorage lives?

Along a chain link fence a block away, roses and photos memorialize the 17-year-old shot and killed two weeks ago on the other side of town. A street over, there’s another fence and another homemade memorial — this one for the 15-year-old killed two years ago by a bullet through her apartment window. There are too many memorials like that in too many places around Anchorage.

Desperate, parents and friends and neighbors sought solutions. They met at the community center to build them.

“My children have been losing their friends out there,” said Leslie Vines.

The room was quiet.

The Tuesday assembly was unlike most community meetings. Organized by Kokayi Nosakhere, writer and community activist, and Don Megga, a local radio personality, it opened with prayer. Then came two hours of honest discussion aimed to produce actionable ideas to present at a citywide “Stop the Violence” block party Aug. 20.

Everyone who wanted to help was invited. Anyone who had an idea was welcomed to speak up.

Vines, employment director at Nine Star Employment and Educational Services, thought jobs and education could be part of the answer. She stood in front of the room and talked about the different training programs available; how parents could keep their kids busy, keep them out of trouble. It starts at home, she said.

“As a single parent, I want my kids to be different and better than me, so I still work,” she said to the crowd. “It starts with us — our kids are following us. Our kids are following us.”

The way Mutazz Chenery sees it, kids these days need more ways to express themselves; more time to be kids; more understanding when it comes to the world in which they’ve been raised.

“It’s not ‘90 no more, it’s 2016, so we can’t handle these kids like it’s 1990,” Chenery said. “I don’t know where to start to fix it, I don’t know how we go about it … I just know what I can do.”

So, at the front of the crowded community center room, he talked about the opportunities he tries to find for the young people around him, and the things he sees and hears on a daily basis. The kids aren’t kids anymore, he said. They’re forced to grow up too fast. Maybe that’s part of the trouble.

Not everyone in the room agreed about the causes of the problems, or even the problems themselves. There were questions and conversations. But everyone agreed on one thing: To stop the violence, something had to change.

Armed with ideas, poster board and markers, they gathered around tables and wrote everything down. There were suggestions for encouraging youth leadership and building economic mobility. People talked about curfew reform, youth employment and sparking change within the Anchorage School District. Men and women shared their thoughts on ways to make Anchorage stronger from within — family by family, block by block.

Standing next to a sheet poster board covered in writing, Antavia Hamilton-Ochs talked about her own experience as a former teacher in local high school classrooms. She loved her students, she said. She quit the job over frustrations with the school’s seemingly poor literacy standards. Now she hopes to help her former students in other ways. In any way.

“I don’t care who’s to blame anymore, somebody just needs to say, ‘I’ll step up — I’ve got time to help these kids,’” Hamilton-Ochs said. “It’s so cliche, but this is our future, and I’m angry that it’s taken this long, but I’m hopeful that all these people have come together.”

Categories: News

5 replies »

  1. Clearly diversity and “pride” in one’s heritage aren’t part of the answer. Rome wasn’t burnt in a day, it won’t be rebuilt in a day. Allowing the Golden Rule and respect for Americanism back in the schools would be a good start.

    Reading list:
    1) David Blankenhorn’s Fatherless America.
    2) Walter Williams’s article The Decline of Civility
    3) Walter Williams’
    Up from The Projects
    Race and Economics
    The State Against Blacks

    It’s not until we learn the rules of a civil society, and the benefits of all living by one Godly standard that things will improve. Letting the failing educational and other governmental institutions to have so much sway and coercive effects on people’s lives is pulling us tearing us asunder.

    God help us.

  2. Seems clear to me. Gun control would help, a lot. 7 out of 10 Americans support it. We will never get it in AK or the country at large while the state legislatures and US Congress are controlled by the Republican Party. Mt. View is the most densely populated part of Anchorage and could be a major influential voting bloc, but voter turnout here is the worst in the state! Connect the dots, people!

  3. I read E. P. Laribus’ comment above with dismay. It means that they do not understand the REAL nature of diversity and pride in one’s heritage. I would agree with perhaps what they may be trying to say that a “pride” that says me and those like me ABOVE all others could be part of the problem. But a true pride in one’s heritage in a framework of diversity says me and those like me are special AND you and those like you are as well. AND it looks at the ways we are all connected and the same as well as looking at the differences….much like how each flower on a tree in this glorious Year of the Blossom is beautiful in its own right and yet never loses its connection to the tree where it is growing.

    In fact, MORE emphasis on REAL pride of heritage and on diversity is needed, not less. EVERY culture has in its background values that encourage choices besides violence. Such values as personal responsibility and dealing compassionately with others can be found in every culture. Part of the solution is helping folks….kids themselves and adults, too, because the adults are who transmits these values to their children…get MORE deeply in touch with these core values. Diversity principles provide the framework to allow me to cheer with enthusiasm each group with different heritage than I as they gain their own pride in their own culture and share that culture with me.

    You recommended “living by the principles of one Godly standard”. I would agree in this if you acknowledged that that standard should be built on the principles that lie at the cores of all faith traditions. However, if you are meaning a shift to following the specific tenets and rules of one particular faith tradition I would disagree with you vehemently. I’m not sure if you are aware of the level of diversity in Anchorage. We are, quite literally, the most diverse city in the US. We hear a lot about the languages and the national origins and ethnicities. We hear less about the many various faiths represented here. Telling people that they must follow one’s specific way of faith, and taking action to make them do so, is its own kind of heinous violence. We don’t need MORE violence against the hearts and souls and physical selves of our citizens. We need less. An emphasis on the core values found in EVERY faith tradition within a framework of diversity again would be part of the solution.

    There is another part of this I want to dicuss in this already-too-long comment. I think a huge part of the solution is parents truly being willing to engage with their children. I have witnessed a lot of what I’ve taken to calling “parentis digitalis absentia”. I saw a perfect example of this on a bus recently. There was a mother with a lively girl of around four or so. As the ride progressed the little girl was actually well-behaved. But she did some things like singing and talking to her mother somewhat loudly. Her mother spent the entire time with her nose in a cell phone. The only interaction she had with her daughter was every so often to rudely tell the little girl to stop doing what she was doing. Finally, after several times of these attempts to get her mother’s attention and the mother’s rude retorts, the mother slapped the little girl and yelled something about “I told you to stop it, damn it!” I couldn’t help myself. I blurted out, “well you could try talking with her instead!”

    The mother turned around and looked at me with what looked to me like bewilderment in her eyes. I had the impression that she was bewildered at the idea of interacting with her daughter in any other way than she was doing. Adults, children are not here for you to meet some sort of duty with or make you feel more fulfilled or to get money from some program or other or anything like that. They are here for us to help them become the best them they can be. If we are not willing to participate in this process we should simply not have them.

    I suspect in many cases where the patents may not be meeting this obligation to really be part of their children’s lives it is because our financial system drains us so fully of the energy we might otherwise be able to direct at our children. Anything that can be done to help fix this system will have a direct impact on this issue of violence…living wage job creation, wage improvement, job skill training, etc. all will play a part.

    There’s my 3 1/2 cents worth. I just want I finish by saluting all are working on this issue. You are making Anchoeage a better place to live for ALL of us!

  4. Clark, gun control has failed every time it’s been tried. We will never get it in our country because it’s a right provided to us by our creator, not The Man. That IS the concept of and a foundational block upon which our country was founded.

  5. I’m the one that brought up enforcing curfew,the parents need to enforce it instead of the police having to intervene by charging parents $75-$300 when their kids are stopped by police past curfew.
    It’s our moral obligation & responsibility to guide & teach our children what’s right & what’s wrong,not leaving it up to society to raise our children,leading them into mass destruction. Focus on our children & know where they are at all times. Put your foot down & start being a strong solid parent & not your child’s friend. Stop over compensating & letting them think they run your house hold!!!

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