Youth need relationships, not recreation

Published 8:17 pm Saturday, September 4, 2010

By Domenick Epps

As a city, we have overcome one hurdle after the next, but still there is more work to do.

Do you recall just four or five years ago how much negative publicity Suffolk was receiving for tearing down Birdsong Recreation Center and not replacing and for the youth violence that saturated the city?

Come on, you cannot forget the life of Diane Holland or Deshawn Parker, who were shot to death. You cannot forget the countless fights that broke out in our schools. You cannot forget the remarks that we all made when the city tore down a memorable recreation center.

Check out this quote from Jan. 20, 2006: “City officials said they are baffled by the violence and unsure how to stop it.”

“I wish there was a string to pull so that there wouldn’t be any more homicides, but we all know that’s not the case,” Suffolk Mayor Bobby Ralph said at the time. “If there is a confrontation between teenagers, and they are going to settle it with guns, then I don’t know if there is a solution.”

Councilman Calvin Jones wasn’t sure what to do either, according to news accounts at the time. “What kind of programs would you implement to deter this?” he asked. “Are there educational programs? At this point I don’t have a good answer.”

As you can see, back then we failed to take a proactive approach to resolve an issue that had hurt so many hearts.

Was losing a recreation center the real problem? As lovely as the East Suffolk Rec Center is, it shocks me that its not overflowing with youth every day. You would think that it would be.

Three teens are now incarcerated behind an attempted robbery charge. Why? Is it because they had no place to go or because we fail to build relationships with the youth?

People, let’s not become complacent because we have yet to see another season like the one we saw in 2005 and 2006. We must be proactive, and implement more opportunites to establish relationships with the youth of our city.

We say that the youth are our future. Let’s just be mindful not to ignore them in our present. Two thumbs up for those of you who work with our youth! Your dedication is proving that establishing relationships is one of the best solutions that we have. Though you may have a lack of resources, you continue to give the most important thing — your time.

We have come a long way but there’s still more work to do. Blessings to you. Agape.