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Staff, alumni present at local Youth Violence Prevention Symposium

Earlier this spring, members of the Louisville community gathered at the Louisville Central Community Center for a symposium on youth violence, with invited presentations from the UofL School of Public Health and Information Sciences staff and alumni. Aubrey Williams, Program Coordinator with the UofL Youth Violence Prevention Research Center (YVPRC), participated on a panel discussion about “People Experiencing Violence” and SPHIS alumna Billie Castle, PhD, MPH, Academic Health Coordinator, Louisville Department of Public Health & Wellness, delivered the keynote “System Equality vs Systemic Racism.” Additionally, Trinidad Jackson, MS, MPH, YVPRC Sr. Research Associate and SPHIS doctoral candidate, was invited to speak on “The Role of Community in Youth Violence Prevention.” Read a more detailed synopsis of his presentation below.

2019 Youth Violence Prevention Symposium: Uprooting Violence in Our Community

April 8-12, 2019 marked the nineteenth year that Students Against Violence Everywhere (SAVE) has called the nation to action in the name of National Youth Violence Prevention Week (NYVPW). The hope: to raise awareness and educate youth and communities on effective violence prevention strategies. On April 6, the UofL Health Science Center Office of Diversity and Inclusion collaborated with multiple community entities on the Youth Violence Prevention Symposium, which kicked off Louisville’s participation in NYVPW. Trinidad Jackson, senior researcher and doctoral candidate at SPHIS, began his presentation by engaging the audience in a call and response that involved yelling the names, Mike Brown and Trayvon Martin multiple times. He often grounds his speaking engagements in the acknowledgment of these young, Black human beings who were assassinated by symptoms of white supremacy. Why? His answer and presentation content are further discussed hereafter.

The popular narrative associated with violence often highlights interpersonal acts; when further considering the interpersonal context, popular imagery is disseminated in ways that reduces these violent acts to problems that alarmingly and exclusively exist in Black and Brown communities (e.g., Black on Black crime). These elements are problematic because they create narrow lenses that isolate and target individuals for intervention while consistently negating Eurocentric ideologies that have created, and currently sustain cultural and structural violence onto these very communities. For example, millions of research and intervention dollars have been granted to initiatives that emphasize social and resiliency skills for “violent, Black communities.” While important, acquiring those survival-type skills will not equip community members with the capacities necessary to disrupt and dismantle cultural and structural systems rooted in violent, white supremacist ideologies.

Consider this: police departments in the south, also known as slave patrols, were created to control, terrorize, and murder Black people. In The New Jim Crow (2010), Michelle Alexander explored racially inequitable consequences of the ideologies demonstrated through mechanisms such as mass incarceration; the 2015 Department of JusticeInvestigation of the Ferguson Police Department report yielded racially charged accounts of predatory policing on Blacks. Unfortunately, the paradigm that normalized the control, terrorization, and murder of Black people still persists in 2019. Moreover, to what extent has society acknowledged this as endemic? An epidemic? Pandemic? Where are the funding opportunity announcements that facilitate and encourage the conceptualization, research, and practice of annihilating white supremacy?

We, as communities around the globe must critically inquire, acknowledge, and act against higher ecological levels of violence in order to create peaceful landscapes that we envision at the interpersonal level. When the term violence prevention is paired with human populations such as youth, the inferred connotation is that, “youth are violent—let’s fix them.” Jackson emphasized that this problem is much bigger than the youth, and we must not continue to frame it in such a way that displaces the burden onto that population with our language; instead of youth violence prevention, he advocates for structural violence prevention.

To check out some of the work that his team facilitates around these topics, visit https://pridepeaceprevention.org/

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