RICHMOND, VA (WWBT) - A serious conversation was prompted by youth in Central Virginia who are demanding local leaders do more to make our communities more inclusive for everyone.
Wednesday evening the nonprofit Rise for Youth discussed concerns about race relations, incarceration and public safety.
"I know I get racially profiled a lot, like, 'Oh, he probably from the hood. He seem this and that,” Makel Al-Qadaffi said.
The 17-year-old is working to address stereotypes and issues he says impact people his age.
"I hope we find an alternative to youth incarceration instead of locking people up in jail that’s miles and miles away from home. Build a facility that’s closer to home and more home-like and you still get a good education and you still get to talk to your family on the daily,” he said.
That issue is why the group Rise For Youth held a community forum Wednesday.
"I know I’ve definitely experienced racial altercations either towards myself or towards other people,” 17-year-old Hugh McFarlane said.
A panel of experts was on hand to weigh in, including a local minister, prosecutor and community advocates.
“Racist ideas come from ignorance,” Attorney Kim Rolla told the crowd. “They come from hate and the people who have racist ideas make racist policies."
A Chesterfield prosecutor, Ambrosia Mosby, said feelings of inferiority are internalized early.
"We’re talking to 9-year-olds, we’re talking to 10-year-olds and we’re saying ‘What are white people like?' and ‘What are black people like?’ 'What are your schools like?’ Mosby said. “They’ll say ‘we like to fight more than kids in the suburbs’ or ‘it’s more dangerous in our schools than it is there.”
The event was one of four public forums Rise for Youth plans to hold across the Commonwealth. A summary of results will be presented to lawmakers as the group addresses not only race, but also education, school discipline and services for communities.
A lot of time folks experience trauma early in life and then that manifests later as behavioral issues or they end up in the juvenile justice system when really it’s a manifestation of the trauma they’ve experienced early in life," social service advocate Stacie Vecchietti said. “So if we identify that trauma earlier, perhaps we can change the trajectory.”
“I feel racism wont ever end,” Al-Qadaffi said, “but it wont be as bad in the future.”