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‘My goal was to crash the party:’ Addressing youth gun violence

New B.O.Y. program founder brought teens to April 30 community meeting to address youth gun violence

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The Marion County Public Health Department hosted over two dozen community organizations for an event to address youth gun violence.

Half an hour into the meeting, Kareem Hines brought a group of teen boys from New B.O.Y (Breed of Youth), a mentoring and youth development program and sat in the back.

“My goal was to crash the party,” Hines said. “I didn’t even know about it until the last minute. I wanted to bring the kids here because I knew that they weren’t invited.”

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The event was a follow-up conversation from last year’s call-to-action on youth gun violence.

Youth gun violence

“I want people to say, ‘Oh my God, actual kids,’” Hines said. “It’s about the kids, but there are no kids in the room. So now I’m trying to put my kids at different tables with adults from different organizations. Not only am I educating the kids, but the adults too.”

IU Indianapolis assistant professor Lauren Magee did a report for the Office of Public Health and Safety in collaboration with Stop the Violence Indianapolis. The report showed from 2020-23, 16 to 24-year-olds were the most at risk for firearm injuries.

It also found that African American Marion County residents were 4.5 times more likely to have a firearm related emergency room visit than white residents. Also, the number of young people killed in Indianapolis last year reached a five-year high despite an overall drop in homicides.

Sunny Lu Williams the President of TechServ Corporation, presented a strategic marketing plan that would include creating a provider directory.

It would be a searchable online list of providers, organizations, programs and individuals that provide services and activities pertaining to the reduction of firearm access for youth and families.

The directory would also serve as support in the aftermath of a violent gun incident.

“What are your thoughts on this? Because we don’t want to make a Tik Tok or do Instagram. So, would this be something that youth would want to go to and utilize?” Williams asked the group of teens.

All of them said no.

Create tangible connections with youth

“There has to be an intentional ecosystem that includes the kids, but we have to go where the kids are,” Hines said. “We have to stop inviting them to these high-level meetings using some language that goes over their heads just to be transactional.”

Wishing community leaders were more transformational in their approach, Hines wants people to create tangible connections with youth.

He notes a disconnect in adults truly understanding the reality of young peoples’ lives. Hosting events during school hours, Hines added, and not inviting

them to the table when they’re the topic of conversation is counterproductive.

“I’ve been to three events in the last three months where kids were invited but they don’t feed the kids. You can’t invite a kid to come to a program to be lectured or talked to and not feed them. It’s little stuff like that,” said Hines.

“You’d be surprised how much you can get from a kid when you just feed them. A meal shows you care. Some of them aren’t eating at home.”

17-year-old Kaden King was shot just two weeks ago and wears a cast on his arm where it happened. The high school dropout has been a member of New B.O.Y since he was 15 after he “caught a case.”

“I went to juvenile and was on probation with an ankle monitor. My probation officer told me about [New B.O.Y] and honestly it feels like family,” said King.

New B.O.Y

The shooting incident is still being investigated, but the teen is not letting that stop him for being in important spaces like this event.

If it was not for New B.O.Y, King said he’d still be in the streets.

“I’m going back to school because of them. When I think of gun violence now, I try to take in everybody’s part on what happened. Plus what led up to it. This whole city is a war zone.”

Marion County Public Health Director Dr. Virginia Caine told the room of community leaders that her department was prepared to pledge $2 million next year to community-based organizations curbing youth gun violence.

“That’s a personal organizational commitment. But we’re going to have to have some other people come to the plate to make this happen,” Caine said.

“There’s no way in a city of this size, with the incredible number of organizations and companies that we have in this town, that we can’t come up with the resources to make a difference for our youth to do something differently.”

Youth gun violence

Riley Hospital for Children has treated approximately 20 youths for gunshot wounds, including two fatalities so far this year.

Magee’s recent study found that the number of juvenile shooting injuries in Indianapolis has increased 300% over the last six years and 14% of those injured children were repeat gunshot wound victims.

When asked what the first steps are to effectively tackling this problem, New B.O.Y. youths said it boils down to connection.

“Come down to their level,” 18-year-old Patrick Collier said. “Use any resource that you can. Art, photography, whatever a child is interested in. When you’re working with youth, or you’re for a cause that’s to better youth or support youth or change the way a youth thinks, you have to include them.”

Contact staff writer Jade Jackson at (317) 762-7853 or by email JadeJ@IndyRecorder.com. Follow her on Twitter @IAMJADEJACKSON. 

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