Milwaukee (CBS 58) — Dozens of Milwaukee teenagers want to help address the gun violence and reckless driving they say is an almost constant impact on their lives.
On Friday, July 29, the teens hosted a City Hall discussion to connect them with city, county and state governments to find solutions.
Over the past few months, teens have been studying reckless driving and gun violence, as well as researching trends and analyzing solutions.
Nearly every teenager shared their personal stories, such as gunshots in their home, family members having an accident, and personal loss.
Against the moderator, Nicole Hayes said, “I’m young. But I see a lot.”
And teenagers feel a lot. Joshua Lyons was among a dozen teenagers who shared deeply personal stories on Friday.
Joshua said, “The car that fired on the block drives up to our neighborhood and starts shooting.”
And they explained why, in their opinion, their peers resort to crimes that affect society.
Hayes said, “Some people just don’t understand what they’re doing. They really see it as a private matter and don’t think it can affect everyone around them.”
Over the past few months, teens at the Family Preservation Center have been studying reckless driving and gun violence, and meeting people who have been affected by both.
But the problems affect not only teenagers. The discussion at City Hall also included Police Chief Jeffrey Norman, who said, “I am a resident. I see driving. I’m afraid for my family. I’m afraid for my wife.”
Chief Norman added, “It’s a shared responsibility to understand, you can’t always act like it’s someone else and not you.”
Shaquita LaGrant-McClain, director of the Milwaukee County Department of Health and Human Services, said everyone is responsible for improving the situation.
Pointing to the room, she said, “And if I am not that, I mark you. And if you are not it, you celebrate it. Right, right.”
Community member Jerel Ballard said: “I graduated in 2013. And since then, I know that at least three of my classmates died due to gun violence. And one of them lost her baby because she was pregnant at the time she was shot.”
Latres Hughes was the victim of reckless driving. She recalls being hit: “Two blocks from my house, my mother and I were hit by a stolen Jeep.”
Many teenagers spoke of wanting to help change behavior and how people respond to stress.
Against Rena, Ellis said that while some people may go for a walk to clear their minds, too many of her peers turn elsewhere.
“These kids don’t do midnight walks, they do daytime walks, and they want to hit the gas as hard as they feel the pressure is on them.”
But the discussion was not only about problems. Against Javion, Simpson said, “We’re coming together and bringing the youth together to focus on these issues and see what we can do to make a difference.”
Teenagers want to act and connect with peers across the city.
Joshua said, “I’m also looking forward to it because I know there are groups of kids like us that will bring change that will bring hope to this city.”
Friday’s discussion lasted two hours and Joshua said that while everything went well, he wished they had even more time to continue exploring their ideas to make Milwaukee safer.
Moderator Robert Kelly said: “What legacy do you want to have? Do you want trigger and keys to control you? Or get the help and change you need to help yourself get better and change the community.”