Street Knowledge News
What's Wrong With Our Kids
May 24 1998

The massacre that occurred May 22 at Springfield, Oregon makes us ask ourselves where will society's future take us. Although the shooting of 23 high school students by 15-year-old Kip Kinkel was hanous and dispicible, shootings by teenagers is no longer uncommon. Last Sunday's edition of Street Knowledge opened with Dr. Dre and Ice Cube's "Natural Born Killas". "We started playing that song for a reason," said host Davey D. "Because that's the question I gotta ask everybody this morning. Are we Natural Born Killers?"

Over 30 killings, since the beginning of the year, has occurred due to teens with guns. The question among us is what is the reason for these corrupted kids. "We're asking ourselves 'are we relly serious when we say that we're all about uplifting the conciousness, the spirituality and self-esteem of young people,'" Davey said. "How serious are we? This is not an isolated situation that took place in Oregon. You have people doing drive bys all over the place."

Davey pointed out that society doesn't take the time to commit young people, but exploit them instead. Four powerful teenagers were on the panel on Sunday, but not because they are Natural Born Killers. They are recognized for their work and efforts to help the youth in the Bay Area.

Oakland's Ethan Gumms of the Elmhurst Unity Center and Rashaad Jackson of the Mentor Center is two of 15 students who were recently awarded the Youth of Valor Award for their outstanding work in the community. Also on hand was William Walker of Coleman Advocates and Kenneth Collus, also from the Elmhurst Unity Center.

Jackson, a resident from East Oakland, says he had to learn from his mistakes to get to where he is today. Gumms spends his Fridays at the Elmhurst United Methodist Church helping interact with other youths.

"Friday night is supposed to be the time your supposed to be getting your groove on," Davey said. "Why don't you do that?"
"I don't find it pleasuring doing that," Gumms answered. "I don things because I want to and the community has done a lot for me."

Walker, from San Francisco, goes to local schools to talk to students about their futures. Collus, a student from Bishop O'Down High School in Oakland, works with Gumms at the Elmhurst Unity Center. And so began the discusssion -- why are so many killings involving young people?

"The people of the last generation has had an impact on the people of this generation," Jackson said. "What they were doing yesterday paved the way for today."
"I agree with that," Gumms said. "Especially our parents' generation. But I don't want to put it all on adults. The things that we're doing right now, we know as to be accepted. Something that we see on T.V., something that we know about like drive-by shootings. It's not anything new to us so it's not that difficult to imagine to go out and do it because we see it all the time. My mom's generation didn't see that all the time."

Collus spoke about the violence that are on the news or talk shows that can easily influence today's youth.
"I don't think it's a fascination, I think it's just entertainment," Collus said. "And that's what sells right now. And that's what people see. A lot of people in the this younger generation think that's acceptable because that's all they see so they go out there and do it."

Walker says society is often misunderstood. "A lot of people are dissilusioned," Walker said. "And the statistics that you (Davey D) pointed out, that's the statistics we live by. People need to realize that statistics are usually interpreted by the way the people present them."

The next issue questioned how serious today's society is about ewpowering the community's youth.
"Everybody will say 'we're all about the youth,' " Davey said. "Are we serious when we say that or is this a bunch of crap that everybody says to try to make themselves feel good. There's an idea to build after-school programs and it sounds like a good suggestion. But most people aren't really serious about it. If they were, they'd be actively involved. I would say about 80% aren't really serious about it."

Walker points at politicians, who often target the youth to get an extra vote or two.
"Well I know all of us on this panel is serious," Walker said. I think the problem is you got people who are trying to get elected and a lot of people that work in school boards say 'yeah, I'm for youth'. And once your elected, a lot of times the pressure dies down. And they end up not doing what's important."

Although there is a gap between the first and second generations, Jackson feels there is a change in the air.
"I'm starting to see a little bit of change, community-wise. Older people are getting more involved with today's generation," Jackson said. "And I think that's very important because in order for our generation to acheive, you have to have a lot of their wisdom from yesteryear."
Jackson added that adults are more reluctant to talk to to their children because of fear. It's also the kids' fault for not staying close to their parents. As a result, they turn to a not-so-more reliable source.

"You wanna know who the parents of the kids are?" Davey said. "KMEL! I don't say that to be funny. But you listen and ask Chuy (Gomez) what type of call does he get. People will call up while we do regular air shifts because they don't have anyone to talk to. You hear all kinds of stories:
'I'm 13 years old and my boyfriend beat me and I don't know if I should leave him or stay with him.' It's like 'why are you calling me? I'm just here trying to play music.' " Where the heck are the parents?"

Peer pressure also plays a role in how kids are growing up.
"One of the major things in life is to be accepted," Walker said. "You have people who are in the 4.0 crowd and sometimes they feel pressured because the other crowd who may not seem interested in school, their only option is to go out and kick it with the people down the corner."

Most Bay Area residents who called in averaged in the late 30's, early 40's.
"Society is not allowing us to raise our kids that way I was raised," said a caller from Richmond. "I'm about 41 and I believe that there is a thin line between a spanking and a beating."

It's interesting to see where society will take us if this type of corruption keeps up. But it's never too late to turn things around. If you're one of those kids who seem be distant from your parents, try and start talking to them if you have a problem instead of trying to call a deejay whom you've never met. Chances are the parents know you a little better than a Davey D or a Chuy Gomez.

If you would like information on any of these organizations, you can call Coleman Advocates at (415) 641-4362, The Mentor Center at (510) 891-0427 or Summerbridge National at (415) 749-2875.

written by
Chris Navalta of
The Vallejo Times Herald

For more information regarding call the Street Knowledge Hotline 415-981-KMEL

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