The increased stress, isolation and violence are making it difficult for black teens in the Denver subway. These nonprofits are trying to turn hurt into hope.
He didn’t feel safe, so the 14-year-old brought a knife to his college in Aurora.
And he got caught.
“People don’t behave well at school. They have no morals or respect, ”he said. “And then we meet a person like me who has respect and morality for other people. They don’t like it. So they don’t love me for no reason. So I’m kind of a target.
The teenager, who CPR News does not identify, said he liked to fight and tried to change.
“I feel like I’m sliding now. I’m slowly becoming what they call a threat to society.
He was at Carla Madison Recreation in Denver on Saturday looking for what he called “advice.” He was one of 20 other black youth who came together for a wellness weekend to raise awareness about youth gun violence and suicide prevention.
Young people, especially the organization’s young black men, said they did not feel seen, heard or valued and that this is reflected in what many experience as their teenage years – a cycle of poverty, hopelessness. and drugs. Saturday’s event aimed to give the group a sense of self-awareness and teach them skills and techniques for dealing with unresolved trauma and other feelings like anger, sadness and anxiety that lead to violence and suicide.
“I will let my hope, not my injury, drive my future,” said Halim Ali at the start of Saturday’s session.
Ali is the founder of the nonprofit From The Heart Enterprises, which hosted the event with fellow members of the King’s Council Black Men’s Health Initiative – The Crowley Foundation and the Apprentice of Peace. Youth Organization. The session was scheduled months ago, but it follows a spike in youth violence in Aurora, where 16 youths were gunned down in various incidents last month.
Some young people at Saturday’s event were involved in fighting in schools or other disruptive behavior; others were just interested in participating with their friends – or their parents or their schools had referred them.
“They don’t know how to deal with emotions”
Hosts of the event said many kids really don’t know who they are. “A lot of our young people are not in tune with themselves,” said host Dominique Lawrence, 29. “They don’t know how to deal with emotion. They don’t know how to deal with grief, frustration, anger.
Lawrence started his own journey two years ago. He was in a dark place, he said, depressed, stressed and still sick. No one at home had taught him to deal with his emotions, so he began to study and explore on his own.
“How do I feel when I’m angry?” How do I feel when I’m sad? What do I do? What are the things, how do I react? And I’m just meditating, building and cultivating thoughts and ideas and practicing how to fight and deal with these different emotions.
Ali focused on this by starting the session on why men have trouble asking for help. Some of the participants said it made them feel less than a man, or feared judgment, weighing down others or hurting their pride and ego. A 14-year-old said he doesn’t trust most people.
Ali encouraged participants to be vulnerable during the breakout sessions, led by facilitators like Lawrence, some of whom had previously been involved in gangs, drugs and violence.
“I’m still learning to be a person,” said Andre Colman, 16, who has found mentorship with From the Heart over the past five or six years. He said he had learned Tai Chi.
“It has helped me so much. I was fighting all the time. And then after that I learned to calm down and use my body to let it flow, let my breath flow, ”Coleman said. “I’m still learning (about) my temper, but I’ve learned to control it.
Manage anger, pain
A general theme for the day was how to release negative or toxic emotions like anger, sadness and frustration, and how to change how you feel about someone who you think has made you feel bad. wrong.
“You have trusted people in this room that you can count on,” Ali said.
The group explained why anger is so pervasive among young men. Several spoke of fathers who weren’t there, of relatives who mistreated them mentally and physically, and the pain and injury this caused. Ali spoke of how easily grief can turn into anger and then a person becomes “a ticking time bomb.”
Ali asked the group why people choose to hold on to anger and not forgive.
“(I’m) still in mourning,” said one teenager. Ali approached the boy and gave him a bear hug.
The consequences of holding onto anger and resentment can be devastating, Ali said.
“The person who wronged you is controlling you,” he said. “They rent space in your head for free!” You become that angry person, that abusive person. Not forgiving is like eating poison and hoping someone else will die, ”Ali said.
Small group sessions explore stressors
The youth attended several breakout sessions on how to develop self-esteem, triggers, stressors and warning signs, creating a wellness toolkit – things that young people can do physically, mentally, personally, spiritually, emotionally and professionally – to feel better and have a message – crisis action plan.
Some teens spoke of the stress of “changing the code,” of having to speak and act in different ways in different environments, and of being judged in public for their appearance.
“And I think it’s stressful because it just puts a lot of pressure on you to say the right things and do the right things, at times,” said Brandis Cunningham, 14.
Parents, school, tests and other children are stressors, the young people said.
“There are actions that can keep those emotions from overwhelming you,” host Ellis Hudson told a boy group. Teens created action plans when stress overwhelmed them, like taking a hot shower, listening to music, meditating, or hanging out.
In another group, the facilitators encouraged the boys to think about how they express their love for themselves.
“I’m still alive,” said one boy.
The group discussed ways in which they will take care of themselves mentally, physically and spiritually.
“It’s easier to build a strong kid than to mend a broken man,” Elijah Renee, one of the day’s facilitators, told a group of boys.
Changing negative thoughts
Renee, 28, knows this from experience, having been raised by “gang members, pimps and murderers.” He said that the more he educated and learned, the more he was able to discern right from wrong. He said he saw today’s youth plagued by the same things his generation did – constant images in music and videos that glorify violence and demean women.
The group explained how to turn negative thoughts into positive thoughts by being disciplined and responsible. Renée suggests that they label the negative thought and insert it with a positive thought.
A boy who said, “I never do anything right” suggests that it could be “I do everything.” ”
Renée told the group that they were at a crossroads.
“Now is the time to get the spirit back,” Renee said. “Keep your heart, keep your mind, feed it with positivity, feed it with love.”
In another session, a group of boys are asked to name their most important needs and wants and whether their current life is meeting them.
One boy said he didn’t feel successful at anything and a third said he wanted peace in his life but, “I don’t feel it right now.
Alex Carter, 17, relies on sports like soccer, his friends and his girlfriend, and when he “goes through something” God is a source of strength. Although Carter has great family support, a roof over his head, a meal every night, and plays plenty of sports, he attended Saturday’s session to continue learning.
He has noticed that since the pandemic more kids in school seem anti-social, more aggressive, or unwilling to talk, and Carter is embarrassed by that.
“(Sometimes) they just ignore me or they just don’t know how to use their words, you know, they’d rather text me or call me or something, than talk to me in person, you know ? And I feel like you learn more and you learn better when you’re face to face with someone.
The sessions reinforced in him the things he needs to do to elevate himself, such as walking in nature.
“In my opinion, it’s nice, when you put your feet in the grass, it feels good. It makes you feel healthy, makes you feel like you are one with the earth.
Open up and be real
But no matter where the young people are on their journey, they took the first step by showing up for Saturday’s meeting. They walked away armed with lists of things they like to do to feel better and who they can turn to for support.
Towards the end of the day, the 14-year-old who got caught with a knife in school was asked how it felt to see other black men open up and be real to him. He responded immediately.
“It feels good. Nowadays you can’t do that. I mean, I can’t, I still can’t do it. I’m basically telling you the basics. I can go deeper, but these are the basics So it feels good to have other people talking to you.