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By Helen Silvis of The Skanner News
Published: 24 February 2012

Pictured are some of the Multnomah Youth Commissioners who are working hard to pull together the Rob Ingram Youth Summit Against Violence. From left: Rakiyah Johnson, Ana Meza, Isai Rojas-Arcos, Perla Alvarez and Violeta Alvarez.

With just six weeks to pull together the Rob Ingram Youth Summit Against Violence, Multnomah Youth Commissioners are looking for help. If you are under 21, and you're interested in helping with the summit, that means you.

At a meeting downtown Wednesday Feb. 22, a group of youth commissioners came together for their weekly planning meeting. The summit will take place from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Saturday, April 21 at Highland Christian Center, 7600 N.E. Glisan Street.

Marc Fernandes, the Multnomah County staffer supporting the group asked a question. "If you ask how many people in the room have been impacted by violence, how many do you think will stand up?"

"Everyone," say several voices at once. "Almost everyone."

From bullying to child abuse, from partner abuse to gang shootings, violence, or the threat of violence, is pervasive in our daily lives. Through the summit, Multnomah Youth Commissioners want to give youth a voice in the issue. 

"We want to hear from people who have been directly impacted by violence," said Violeta Alvarez.

The other goals of the forum are to let more young people know where and how to get different kinds of help, and to increase communication between young people and the adults who make decisions that affect their lives. Organizers believe this could be the first-ever youth-led summit against violence in the United States.

The morning will be open to youth only. In the afternoon, elected officials and decision makers will be invited to hear what youth have to say about their experiences of violence.

"Before the Multnomah Youth Commission I didn't know I had rights that could be infringed upon," said Rakiyah Johnson. "I didn't know I had rights. So if even 100 more people left the summit knowing that, they might speak out more."

With technical assistance from Fernandes, Samir Raad from the City of Portland, and a couple of Capstone students from Portland State University, the Youth Against Violence Committee is holding focus groups that will help set a direction for the summit. They'll be visiting some schools and youth centers to hear from youth there.

They also need to plan the day's events, secure extra funds, organize food and entertainment and contact dozens of people.
The youth commissioners also want to look at some possible solutions.

"What's the point of going to a forum on violence if you don't give ways to fight it," says Johnson.

Youth who want to help with the event can email Violeta at [email protected] or Rakiyah Johnson at [email protected]

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