Downtown Miami

Overtown community leaders seek to 'Save Our Sons' from gun violence

Young men raise their hands to answer questions at the Overtown Youth Center's Save Our Sons Youth Summit, which was created to develop and enhance the lives of young men predominantly in the Overtown area. The Summit provides mentors and young males an opportunity to build a bond grounded in support, success and achievement.
Young men raise their hands to answer questions at the Overtown Youth Center's Save Our Sons Youth Summit, which was created to develop and enhance the lives of young men predominantly in the Overtown area. The Summit provides mentors and young males an opportunity to build a bond grounded in support, success and achievement. MagicalPhotos.com

Lyle Grandison and five other men stood at the front of an Overtown community room and told a large group of teenage boys to start clapping in unison.

He wasn't telling them to clap to show their respect. He was building up a momentum, each clap faster than the previous.

The momentum exploded into a chant led by Grandison and the other men:

"One Blood, One Hood, Brotherhood!"

Grandison and the other members of the Circle of Brotherhood used the chanting exercise to show the teens the power of banding together to create a powerful force of change.

It was also a strong gesture toward the theme of Overtown Youth Center's eighth annual Save our Sons Summit, this year called "Not Guns But Only Brotherhood Can Solve Problems."

During the June 29 summit, the teens spent the day bonding with their peers, and learning from adult male mentors like Grandison how to better themselves and their community.

It was also a day to discuss a problem all too familiar to the youth of this community: gun violence.

"We've got to get tired of complaining about what the young folks are doing and try to be part of the solution," said Antonio Marshall, the youth center's training development specialist. "It's only getting worse and I wanted to address it."

The discussion panel included Juvenile Service Probation Officer Paul Black, Circle of Brotherhood member and youth mentor Albert Campbell, Eleventh Judicial Circuit Court Judge William Thomas, and Police Division Chief of the South Operations Division Ariel Artime.

Each speaker had three minutes to give their take on questions asked by the host of the discussion, Dj Supa Celeb.

Thomas noted that conversations about gun violence and gun control are not the same in all neighborhoods.

"Gun violence in Aventura is not the same gun violence in Liberty City," Thomas said. "The conversation has to be isolated to the communities it affects the most."

In Black's response to, "What changes can be made in the short term to target gun violence in our community," he spoke about the importance of conflict resolution skills, getting along with one another,and learning how to deal with anger and stress.

When Campbell talked of the role of parental engagement in the lives of young men, including helping them "curb their stress," Artime highlighted individual choice in the young men.

"I'm going to speak to the kids because you're the ones in the audience. It starts with you and your influence on your peers."

With this year's success, OYC hopes to continue tackling important issues in the local community.

"This is one of the vital things that we do every year," youth center board chairman Stephen Marino said. "It sends the message that there are people who care about them [the boys] and that there are adult males who are responsible in the community who are willing and and happy to communicate with them."

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