On the evening of November 30th, 2015, a group of young people assembled in the Unitarian Universalist Church on Cleveland Street to discuss the problem of violence in Orange, and how the youth might contribute to both an understanding of it and a solution. It was the second in a series of community forums about safety and justice in Orange, organized by Khemani Gibson, Courtney Sweet, Patricia Rogers and Shannon Sorhaindo. The following are some of the questions posed to the youth panel, and an edited synopsis of their answers:
What does crime mean to you?
“Well obviously, it means breaking the law, but I think it goes deeper than that.. I think crime is act of violence that not only breaks the law, but affects the whole community in a negative way… Crime is about inflicting harm, pain and being prejudiced to your neighbor… A code is broken. ”
“Crime sets fear. We live here. Everything we do is here. When we hear that someone is murdered or raped in our community, we are worried that it will happen again. Kids are afraid of living here, not only because of what we hear, but what we witness.”
Are there any programs or community initiatives that have kept you off the street and given you a place to go?
“The only place you’ll see me is at church or at school. I don’t hang out on the street or with people who commit crimes.”
“Football is my safety net. It’s not like I cut off my friends, I just know what my priorities are. It takes me off the streets for two months. Now that the football season is over, I’m trying to do wrestling.”
Why are young people on this panel?
“We are the future! We have all the time in the world. We have a perspective on how crime affects us. Its’ not okay, we shouldn’t accept and adjust to this. We need to speak up—we’re not okay. We want to push forward.”