A blog article by Bonniejean Alford (Educator, Activist, World Citizen)
A few weeks ago I attended an event sponsored by the American Bar Association that was meant to be a town hall meeting to discuss ways to end teen violence.
I say supposed to because the event reminded me of an Academic conference meant for sharing the ideas of the panelists and nothing more. This isn’t to say that the ideas of the panelist weren’t informative, educational, and even profound. Indeed, many of them were. But some on the panel didn’t seem to be working toward the good of all. Instead, they seemed to be expressing their views without listening to the views of others.
One panelist, however, seemed to hit the issue dead on, no pun intended.
She commented that one day she decided to sit some of the neighborhood youth down and ask them what they thought about the things going on in the neighborhood and the world. But she didn’t stop there. She listened to their answers.
Yes, I said she listened.
So often kids are not listened to. They are ignored and treated as children. And while they are children in many ways, they still have a voice that should be allowed to be heard. In fact, in my life it has often been the ideas of youth that seem to create the greatest change in society. But not at this event.
The ironic thing was, when they got to the part of the evening where they opened the floor to the audience, they had only left twenty or so minutes for people’s comments. Well, for what the audience expected would be their chance to comment. Instead the moderator of the evening informed the audience that they were only to ask questions of the panel rather than provide other ideas.
I was in utter shock.
I couldn’t believe what I was hearing. Here was a panel for an evening that was supposed to be about community building and getting ideas for ending a plague of death upon our youth, and they didn’t even want to hear what the community had to say.
What the youth had to say!!!
And to make matters worse, the first community member, a youth, never got his questions answered. The panel talked around the questions and at the teen, rather than to the teen.
As an adult, an educator, and a community member, I was absolutely mortified, especially in light of the fact that one of the panelists had only said an hour earlier that it was most important to listen and talk to, not at, the youth we are trying to provide a safe community for.
I am sad to say that I don’t think much was accomplished at that town hall meeting, except to further push youth away from adults meant to serve as role models. No answers came about. The community’s voice was not heard.
And no, youth were not asked to serve as panelists. Their voice was once again squashed by the weight of what always has been instead of the hope of what could be.