A town hall hosted by the Baltimore Banner and WJZ-TV brought Mayor Brandon Scott and Police Commissioner Michael Harrison together with other community leaders to discuss youth violence. But the panel did not feature any youth speakers.
Baltimore City Public Schools Chief of Staff Alison Perkins-Cohen and Bishop Donte Hickman of the Southern Baptist Church in Baltimore also participated in the panel.
Gun violence among young people is on the rise in Baltimore and Thursday’s panel brought some familiar refrains; the city needs to invest in youth, guns are too accessible, and violence has become too normalized. Meanwhile, the teenagers who spoke in pre-recorded segments shared feelings of anxiety related to violence and feelings of despair while wondering, “Am I next?”
“Sometimes very simple things, minor things, but they are taking that anger… out against another person with gun violence,” said Commissioner Harrison in his panel.
But sophomore Lillian Greene demanded action from the adults that moves the blame away from youth.
“How are you guys going to approach it in a way that will not make it feel like you’re chastising, or blaming the children that you’re talking to?” asked Greene, who goes to Baltimore City College. “Especially the black and brown children that you’re talking to and addressing? So they won’t feel like they are inherently dangerous?”