ATLANTA — Local leaders, educators, recording artists, parents, and teens had an open and honest conversation about gun violence Monday. They discussed education options and staying safe on the streets this summer.
Young people getting caught up with the wrong things or the wrong crowds is something we've covered all too often. 11Alive hosted the #BlackYouthTownHall event to look for ideas and solutions to keep young people on the right path, just as metro Atlanta schools get ready for summer break.
Hip-hop artist Young Dro grew up in Atlanta's West End in the 1980s and 1990s and witnessed gun violence firsthand.
“I have... young men that look up to me as far, as being a rapper, and... also people that's from the hood, some of the hoods that I grew up in. They felt like I took a better way out," Young Dro said.
The rapper said he had to decide between the streets or his music.
“I actually sacrificed some of the things that you would call like getting in trouble, you know, for the talent that God blessed me with," Young Dro said.
He was just one of the panelists at 11Alive's town hall meeting with many attentive young people listening in the audience at Auburn Avenue Research Library.
“We need to go back to the basics. Our kids in 2023 need what kids in 1993 needed," Shakira Rice said.
Rice is the director of community engagement with Clayton County Public Schools and believes a big part of keeping youth focused is attentive parents.
“Anytime they have a connectedness to positive adults around them, the fewer of the chances are that they will act in those violent and criminal ways because they don't want to let you down," Rice said.
Atlanta Public Schools Police Chief Ronald Applin said the district has an anonymous reporting system for students and also believes developing relationships with young people are crucial.
“What happens in the community, they bring it to the schools," Applin said. “We are police officers, but we're not really policing them. We're engaging, and we're interacting with them. That’s the first thing to build relationships with students, and we can build those relationships.”
11Alive previously told you about Young Dro starting his own anti-gun violence initiative for youth and co-hosting a youth gun violence town hall meeting in the City of South Fulton with Mayor Khalid Kamau. He believes mentoring is crucial in keeping kids on the right track.
“We have to start learning the kids and investigating what they really want to do, and not just start, you know, put things off on them like the popular obvious things," Young Dro said.
Atlanta Mayor Andre Dickens also served on the panel. Dickens said addressing mental health is essential for young people, as well as making sure they have activities and jobs for the summer.