Members of Boston’s NAACP’s Pipeline to Leadership start Youth Summit
Youngsters sporting yellow Boston NAACP t-shirts decorated the Melnea A. Cass Recreation Complex on Aug. 17. These young people appeared eager and excited to participate in the branch’s first annual Youth Summit.
While the summit was the first of its kind, members of the NAACP’s Pipeline to Leadership summer program are not strangers to spearheading volunteer opportunities and workshops to address issues specific to young people in inner-city Boston.
Raven Guerra, 15, host of the Youth Summit, found it necessary to do something to bring young Bostonians together. Inspired by what she felt was an unjust verdict in the George Zimmerman trial, Guerra went to work.
“The fact that he got off upset me a little bit and made me want to march,” she said. “It made me want to get my people together and try to do something about the situation. So I originally wanted to have a march but then [decided] on having a summit for the youth to bring us all together so everyone could be on the same page. After we’re all on the same page than we can be more effective.”
Unity and collective work were just two of the afternoon’s many themes. Violence, mental health, safety, spirituality and leadership were also addressed.
“Instead of trying to fight each other, claim hoods and rep streets that don’t even care about [us], we need to work together,” Guerra said while responding to a panel question on violence. “Most of us have the same skin color — why are we killing each other?”
The support of the community was clear as the youth were joined by parents and city officials including State Reps. Gloria Fox and Carlos Henriquez, City Councilors Tito Jackson and Ayanna Pressley, mayoral candidate John Barros, and Courtney Grey, director of Trauma Response and Recovery at the Boston Public Health Commission.
“Leadership doesn’t happen without involvement. … We need you,” said Henriquez after discussing the importance of being cognizant of mental health in one’s self and peers. “Pay attention to your feelings and your heart. I know that’s not a very political thing to say but we don’t talk about [it] enough in our community,” he noted.
Mayoral candidate John Barros echoed words of the other city councilors and state representatives when he said simply, “We need your leadership now.”
The summit was full of activities that promoted interactivity and sparked much-needed conversations.
“We can basically change what’s cool in our community,” said Paris Clacher, 14, Pipeline program participant. “Instead of smoking and drinking and partying, you can change cool to be helping out with the community, going out and volunteering at nursing homes and things like that.”