Summit Brings Hill Youths, Police Together
When residents of the Metropolitan Police Department’s 1st district met earlier this year for a crime summit, one of the stated goals was to address “how youth in our communities are involved in … public safety issues.”
A discussion there between MPD officers, Eastern Senior High School students and Advisory Neighborhood Commissioner Stephanie Nixon has led to another event: “Teen Summit: Living in a Violent Environment (LIVE),” which will be held May 5 at Eastern, 1700 East Capitol St. NE.
“At the crime summit, the question came up, what can we do to deter crime for youth?” Jahmela Barlow, an Eastern student who is the teen coordinator for the event, wrote in an e-mail. “I just threw out the idea of a youth summit to stop the negative stereotypes and misconceptions of the youth in DC.”
The summit will include a short film by Curtis Mozie, a documentary filmmaker who for more than 15 years has been chronicling gang violence. Mozie, a former MPD officer known as “CWEBB,” has been featured on ABC’s “Nightline” and was dubbed by The Washington Post as “the city’s unofficial street life documentarian.”
The film will be followed by small groups of 10 to 12 students discussing violence and coping strategies. Police will be involved in the discussions.
The summit also will feature a cookout and local celebrities who will remain unannounced, according to Nixon, the community coordinator for the event who also is the chairwoman of the public safety committee for ANC 6A.
“There are celebrities who are going to be showing up where, if everybody knew, we’d have too many kids trying to register,” Nixon said. “We don’t want kids turned away. We want kids who really want to be there.”
The focus of the summit, Nixon said, is to tear down the barriers between youths, parents and police.
“This is not going to be an overnight change, but it’s about changing the mind-set of adults interacting with teens,” Nixon said. “We’ll have discussions — why do people always call the police when they see a group of teens hanging out? The teens feel threatened by the police.
“This is about building a permanent relationship between police and teens, adults and teens, community members and teens. The teens don’t like the cops, but the dislike seems to be formed by misunderstanding.”
Barlow noted in her e-mail that fighting is the violence she and Eastern students encounter most.
“Violence amongst teens is the most ridiculous thing,” she wrote, “especially gun violence and fighting. Auto theft is also frustrating — always have to check if the car is still there.”
The summit will include T-shirts and prizes for students (Nixon mentioned gift certificates from Nusta Spa and Las Placitas restaurant), with more donations rolling in by the day.
In addition, students also will make their own shirts, thanks to a donation from ANC 6D of plain white shirts and markers.
“The shirt is to express an incident of violence that they’ve either experienced firsthand or heard about through a friend, something that’s affected them,” Nixon said. “Then they’ll hang it on a clothesline. The idea is letting go of that incident.” Afterward, the shirts will be placed in a school or the 1st district police station.
As for the lasting impact of the summit, Nixon and Barlow said they hope they can arrange summer activities that will keep students busy and out of trouble and make the summit an annual occurrence.
“We want to keep a safe summer. The crime rate goes up when it gets hot,” Barlow wrote in the e-mail. “We would like to start an organization based on teens, for teens, and by teens to continue this work and partner with MPD. Eventually, we would like this to involve of all of the District and would need to use all of the wards.”
The event runs from noon to 7 p.m. and is open to the first 100 applicants grades 9-12 who “live, learn, worship or work” within 1st district boundaries. Applications are due by Monday. Flyers about the event are posted around the district at schools, police stations and community buildings, and more information can be obtained by e-mailing firstname.lastname@example.org or calling Stephanie Nixon at 202-222-8570.