Mayor Amanda Edmonds, Sheriff Jerry Clayton, Superintendent Ben Edmondson, and community activist Jeannette Hadden join local teens Justin Thomas, Cameron Reid and Andres Stockdill in discussing how we empower young people in Ypsilanti, and the music of Soft Milk …on this weekend’s Saturday Six Pack

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It’ll be a really tight fit, but, this Saturday evening, I’ll have Mayor Amanda Edmonds, Washtenaw County Sheriff Jerry Clayton, Superintendent of Ypsilanti Community Schools Dr. Benjamin Edmondson, and community activist Jeannette Hadden, along with Ypsi teens Justin Thomas and Cameron Reid from Dedicated to Make a Change, Andres Stockdill from Washtenaw Interfaith Coalition for Immigrant Rights (WICIR), and representatives from Ozone House, together in the studio, engaged in what I hope will be a lively, constructive dialogue about how we as a community can better support, empower and challenge our young people… As we only have a few chairs, two microphones, and no air conditioning, there’s a very real possibility that it’ll be a loud, hot mess. However, there’s also a chance that it’ll be incredibly beautiful. And I’m willing to take that chance, if you are. And, who knows, it might actually open up lines of communication that didn’t exist before and point the way toward an actionable idea or two.

So, if you care about the future of this community, please tune in at 6:00 PM on Saturday. [Information on how to tune in can be found below.] Or, better yet, give us a call at 734.217.8624 and share your thoughts on what we as community can do better when it comes to preparing the generation after us for adulthood. [You can also leave your ideas for questions here.]

It’s probably worth noting that, when I first started putting this episode together, it was primarily in response to a wave of gang related violence we’d been experiencing in the City. Two young men had been shot and killed, and there had been well over half a dozen instances of shots having been fired, as friends of the two men sought to exact revenge. [More background on the these recent shootings can be found below.] The more I thought about it, though, and the more time that passed, the more it occurred to me that there are underlying factors that need to be discussed. This isn’t, of course, to say that the young men responsible for these acts of violence shouldn’t be held accountable for their actions, but I think it’s important to acknowledge that there are contributing factors, and discuss them in the open… In other words, while there’s certainly a law enforcement aspect to this, I agree wholeheartedly with the sentiment expressed several weeks ago by Sheriff Clayton, who told members of the press that, “We can’t just enforce our way to a better community.” It’s not enough to just lock up the kids with guns. We need to deal with the root causes.

So, while I suspect the subject of gang violence will come up during the course of our conversation, I don’t imagine the thrust of this episode will be about what the police are doing to bring these young men to justice.

The reality of the situation is that many of these kids who we’re now trying to round-up and incarcerate never stood much of a chance. With the wealth disparity in the country climbing to historically unprecedented levels, and austerity measures being forced upon communities such as ours in order to finance tax breaks for the super wealthy, it was only a matter of time before we started seeing things like this happen. When American jobs get sent oversees, driving adults into minimum wage jobs that had traditionally been held by teens, while, at the same time, budgets for programs serving our at-risk youth are being slashed, is it any wonder that an increasing percentage of our kids will gravitate toward crime? …Speaking of which, two 14 year olds and a 15 year old were arrested not too long ago in connection with an armed robbery on Ferris Street… Our young people, I think it’s safe to say, have too much free time on their hands, too few role models, and too little in the way of opportunity. It’s a deadly combination, and we’re beginning to see the ramifications in Ypsilanti. And that’s what we’ll be discussing come Saturday evening.

I should also add that I know there are people who probably should be in the room with us who won’t be. The panel I’ve assembled does not include, for instance, anyone from the local religious community, or anyone working in the social services. Given space constraints in the room, however, I had to made some difficult choices. If this works, though, you can be sure that other such discussions will follow, and, if so, we’ll be sure to invite representatives from other agencies, other elected officials, etc. The important thing from my perspective, as I’ve said before on this site, is that we don’t just forget about this issue once the bullets stop flying, and things return to “normal” for us adults.

And, at 7:30, once we’ve collectively solved all of Ypsi’s problems, we’ll be joined by Eli Stevick and Dylan Beckwith of the band Soft Milk.

And I’m sure there will be other surprises as well. You’ll just have to wait and see, though.

ssp24poster

BACKGROUND ON YPSILANTI’S TEEN GANG PROBLEM:

This has been an unusually violent summer in Ypsilanti, with over a half a dozen incidents of gun violence in July alone, leaving one young man dead and another wounded. According to the police, the murdered young man, Keandre Duff, was likely shot in the head and killed just after midnight on the morning of July 12 at an Ypsilanti block party due to his alleged involvement in the murder last summer of 17-year-old Keon Washington. [Duff was a suspect in the murder of Washington, but was ultimately released from police custody due to lack of evidence after having served 297 days for drug charges unrelated to the murder. He was murdered shortly after his release from jail.] Since the murder of Duff earlier this summer, there have been over half a dozen shootings across town, as friends of the dead young men have gone after one another. Whether or not you think the term “gang” is appropriate in this instance, it seems clear that this is essentially a war between two groups of young men; one called Rakk Life, and the other called Finesse Gang. [Duff, it would seem, had an affiliation with Rakk Life, while Washington was involved with Finesse Gang.]

AND, HERE, FOR THOSE OF YOU WHO HAVE NEVER TUNED IN TO THE SIX PACK BEFORE, ARE THE DETAILS ON HOW TO LISTEN:

Unless you live inside the AM 1700 studio, chances are you won’t be able to pick the show up on your radio. As that’s the case, I’d recommend streaming the show online, which you can do either on the AM1700 website or by way of TuneIn.com.

And for those of you who aren’t yet familiar with the show, and need to get caught up, you can listen to the entire archive on iTunes.

One last thing… If you’d like to tell your friends and neighbors about the program, feel free to share the Facebook event listing. Or, if you’re not on Facebook, you could always print out a few posters and hire some local teens to slide them under doors. [Our teens need jobs.]

And do call us if you have a chance. We love phone calls. So please scratch this number into the cinder block wall of the recreation room of whichever facility you’ve been assigned to… 734.217.8624… and call us between 6:00 and 8:00 this Saturday evening. The show is nothing without you. And I mean that.

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16 Comments

  1. EOS
    Posted August 21, 2015 at 12:21 am | Permalink

    So what is the real cause of the wealth disparity? How many of these teens live in households with both their biological parents? How many learned to read at a young age, worked hard in school and graduated? How many will not engage in sexual activity while they can’t possibly support themselves, much less an infant? How many who don’t find regular jobs will spend their free time volunteering and establishing professional connections and showing adults that they are ready for more responsibility? How many will do whatever it takes to earn their own way, such as cutting grass, shoveling walks, babysitting, or cleaning houses? Who is it that led them to believe that they could relax and socialize and generally take it easy and then blame the government or wealthy individuals or racism for not handing them everything they think they need.

    It’s those in our community that support socialism who should understand that they have bred this underclass. Those who excuse violence and criminal behavior as a natural consequence of poverty. Those who advocate alcohol and drug use and sexual promiscuity and who sneer at those who hold traditional moral values.

  2. Anonymous
    Posted August 21, 2015 at 5:44 am | Permalink

    EOS, are you saying that we should do less to help our young people?

  3. EOS
    Posted August 21, 2015 at 6:52 am | Permalink

    We should give them a hand up, not a hand out.

  4. Frosted Flakes
    Posted August 21, 2015 at 6:55 am | Permalink

    I think Eos is encouraging Mark to identify all of the various contributing causes of poverty.

  5. Annonymous
    Posted August 21, 2015 at 7:22 am | Permalink

    Educating our young people and giving them a voice in local government is not a hand out.

  6. Annonymous
    Posted August 21, 2015 at 7:25 am | Permalink

    Furthermore, I find it somewhat disingenuous of EOS to attribute all the problems of today’s youth to the fact that they aren’t being brought up in two parent households when, at the same time, he tries to stop same sex couples from adopting children.

  7. EOS
    Posted August 21, 2015 at 9:02 am | Permalink

    Same-sex parents put children at a disadvantage. They can never be the equivalent of a mother and a father. More same sex parents will cause more problems. These are our children and our future. They are not a grand social experiment to stoke the egos of those who engage in sexual deviancy.

    The primary cause of poverty in our community is low educated, unwed mothers who have been given expectations that the government, the community, and taxpayers are responsible for raising their kids and providing for all their needs. Lured by free rent, WIC, and food stamps, these teens race each other to motherhood. By the time their kids start school, they are so far behind they never catch up. Preschool programs ameliorate some of the damage, but are never enough. Educating our young people and giving them a voice in local government is not a hand out. Education needs to start early, standards must be high, and those who fail to meet them should be mandated to participate in tutoring after school and on weekends until they do perform at grade level. Teacher’s unions need to eliminate all restrictions preventing the teachers from working longer hours and 12 month academic years to accomplish this. Those who commit crimes should not be rewarded with job training programs. The training programs should go to those who work hard and stay out of trouble. They are the most likely to benefit from them and by doing so you provide an incentive for everyone to avoid criminal activity. By the time an impoverished 15 year old has dropped out of school and uses a gun to solve disputes they have two options left – death or prison.

  8. Jean Henry
    Posted August 21, 2015 at 9:29 am | Permalink

    Logic.

  9. Jean Henry
    Posted August 21, 2015 at 9:31 am | Permalink

    Please consider including some actual teens in the conversation

  10. site admin
    Posted August 21, 2015 at 9:32 am | Permalink

    Jean, there are three teens mentioned by name in this post. Others will be attending as well.

  11. site admin
    Posted August 21, 2015 at 9:32 am | Permalink

    EOS, perhaps you would like to come to the studio with a box of bootstraps to distribute.

  12. Laura Bernstein
    Posted August 21, 2015 at 9:33 am | Permalink

    I will definitely tune in from Seattle!

  13. Demetrius
    Posted August 21, 2015 at 9:50 am | Permalink

    We need more more and better programs aimed at helping youth. We need more help for families struggling pay for education, transportation, and day-care. We need a much better education system, more mental health resources, and a better (fairer) distribution of wealth. We need to better understand, and deal with, the lingering effects of systematic racism.

    We also need for more people (including youth- to better understand and take responsibility for their own negative actions and the impacts they have on our overall community.

    This should not be either/or. We need BOTH.

    The real problem here seems to be that there is too little middle ground. Either you are a “bleeding-heart” liberal, seemingly endlessly willing to make excuses for these “disempowered” youth — or you are a “heartless conservative” who seems to believe that most of these these people are just “bad,” and therefore, somehow deserve every negative thing that happens to them.

    Couldn’t it be that the the truth be somewhat more complicated than that?

  14. Frosted Flakes
    Posted August 21, 2015 at 11:21 am | Permalink

    I believe Demetrius has identified the heart of the problem.

  15. Kim
    Posted August 21, 2015 at 11:42 am | Permalink

    Mark mentioned that the segment would include discussion of how we “challenge” teens as well as support and empower them. I do t think he disagrees with you Demetrius.

  16. Jean Henry
    Posted August 21, 2015 at 12:38 pm | Permalink

    Kudos! Apologies for missing that

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