By Ida Brown / firstname.lastname@example.org
The Meridian Star
Halfway through Mayor Cheri Barry’s Teen Summit on Crime at the Meridian City Hall Thursday night, Kiara Yates wanted her voice to be heard.
Yates, a 17-year-old Meridian High School student, got up, walked to the microphone and asked her question, despite the protocol of the summit which had submitted questions from area youth.
"I wanted my question to be answered," said Yates afterward. "I wanted more of the youth to stand up and ask the questions they had."
The summit, which was sponsored by the Mayor’s Youth Leadership Council, brought a panel of educators, law enforcement officials, representatives from various aspects of the judicial system, and local church leaders to answer a set of 10 questions picked from dozens submitted by area youth organizations. The questions covered the most pressing topic of crime in the Meridian area but also ranged from laws to educational issues as it relates to the crime rates. Gangs were also discussed by the panelists.
"The purpose of the summit was to hear the voice of our youth and raise awareness among our teens regarding crime, law enforcement, the judiciary and education," Barry said. "I thought it was unbelievable."
The third floor Meridian City Council chambers were packed with youths and their leaders. Many of the youths, such as William Fowler, wanted to hear what would be done about the crime that has been plaguing Meridian in the past year.
"I'm afraid for me and my family," said Fowler, a 16-year-old Meridian High School student. "There are just a lot of shootings going on and I wanted to hear what these people had to say about it."
Kashari Christian is only 10 years old. She came with her mother, Krissy Christian, to the summit. Kashari Christian said when she goes outside to play at the Davis Court Apartments in Meridian where she resides, sometimes she gets scared.
"She hears the gunshots," her mother said. "All this crime and trouble starts because of the parents not raising their children with the right kind of values. We have kids raising kids out there."
The panel consisted of Rev. Stevie Mosley of "Men for Change," Meridian Public School District Superintendent Dr. Alvin Taylor, Lauderdale County School District Superintendent Randy Hodges, Meridian Police Department Chief James Reed, Capt. Wade Johnson and Capt. Dean Harper; along with Judges Frank Coleman and Veldore Young, Assistant District Attorney Lisa Howell and Meridian City Prosecutor Tom Bittick.
The recurring them from all of the panelists seemed to be even at a young age, the choices they make now will impact who they are in the future.
"You have rights, you have a choice and you will be held accountable for your decisions," said an energetic Young, who quickly got the young crowd behind her. "It takes courage to show up here but you have to quit fighting, quit smoking dope, quit doing the wrong things. Help yourself, your family, your friends."
Barry said this won't be the last summit to be held to hear the youth of Meridian.