The meeting comes shortly after a 17-year-old was shot and killed, marking Providence’s first homicide of 2024.
“When mentoring takes place, good relationships form, and youth deter from being involved in violence,” said Marisol Feliciano, director of access, innovation and equity at MENTOR Rhode Island.
Wednesday’s community conversation highlighted the importance of creating good mentors and role models and keeping youth involved in whatever steps are taken to address violence.
“I feel like a lot of adults try to have conversations and try to put themselves in the perspective of the youth,” said Lazarizz Dume-abru, a teen mentee with Mentor RI. “And they can’t really put themselves in the perspective because they can’t look in our point of view… Youth has opinions, but if they’re not heard, then nothing’s going to happen.”
Staff say the resources to affect change and reduce community violence are out there but add that it can be hard to get everything together.
“The truism that we’ve been working with is that none of us can do it alone, but we can do a lot together,” said Keith Morton, the Interim Executive Director of the Nonviolence Institute.
Part of that comes from community meetings, but it also requires putting policy in place.
Morton says they are looking at gun control bills working through the legislature, but there are other areas they want to focus on.
“Rather than policing or disciplining youth or trying to force them to meet certain objectives, how do you start from a perspective that says everybody wants a meaningful life,” Morton explained. “You’ve got some obstacles between you and the meaningful life you want. How do I help you get there?”
Morton says they’re planning on hosting these meetings more often moving forward as they focus on affecting policy.
“There is violence that is happening in our city of Providence,” Feliciano said. “That doesn’t mean that we always necessarily blame the youth. There’s all different contributing factors to that. But how about we sit together at the table and really talk about it? The youth have to be involved in that process, and I mean from the beginning.”