“Collaborative Boys Conference” Discusses Solutions to Violence
CHATTANOOGA, Tenn. (WDEF)- Curbing youth violence and recidivism is a problem many are attempting to tackle in our community. One conference held at UTC today in Chattanooga hopes that conversations can lead to action.
The nonprofit Pursuit of Happiness held its first ever Collaborative Boys Conference at the University Center at UTC. The event featured community leaders who discussed issues facing African-American youth.
Michael Gordon, the President and CEO of Pursuit of Happiness, “These guys agreed to give up their Saturday so that they can come and speak to our young boys about not wanting to go to prison, the importance of education, the importance of reading.”
One man who knows life behind bars is the founder of the B.R.A.V.E. Project, Joe Jenkins. His presentation featured him dressing as a prisoner to force the audience to confront societal views.
Jenkins said that, “A person in an orange jumpsuit and handcuff will get more attention than our latest graduation. So we don’t understand that mentally we celebrate men and women going to prison.”
He spent 13 years in federal prison but since being released has started a program that helps other ex-offenders avoid recidivism. The message to this population is accountability.
A board member for the B.R.A.V.E. Project, Doug Dyer, said that, “They’re holding young men and women accountable, but more importantly helping them develop a plan to go forward when you come out, it’s a scary thing.”
A big focus of the presentations was the importance of education. Brother Kevin Muhammad of the Nation of Islam and Community Haven said that, “Most young people don’t read because they haven’t been introduced to the right knowledge that will inspire them. So we brought our books today to teach them the knowledge of themselves. Once they learn who they are, the creators of civilizations, the inventors of practically everything, then they will find more interest in that.”
These are tools that organizer Michael Gordon hopes will paint a light forward for African-American youth. Gordon said that, “If you believe in resiliency, man you can push forward through that. And if you can get to the other side, then you’re going to have a powerful story to tell other young men about the life that you’ve gone through.”