Capture: Kids Speak Out Event
On Saturday, April 7, 2018, I attended an extremely moving and uplifting event called Kid’s Speak Out at the Downtown Birmingham division of the Y.M.C.A .
The event was one of the first for Alabama’s new advocacy group J.U.S.T.I.C.E, which stands for, Just Us Standing Together in Cities Everywhere.
Jedidiah Brown is the National President and Charisse White is the State Leader of J.U.S.T.I.C.E Alabama. The organization’s name speaks for itself.
The organization was created to bring communities together to seek positive change for injustices throughout the state and world.
Saturday’s focus was on the junior branch of the organization. Junior J.U.S.T.I.C.E is a homage and throwback to the Civil Rights Movement of the 1960s, where children and young adults stood on the frontlines of the movement as Freedom Fighters.
At the Kid’s Speak Out event, local children from area schools got to do just that. The Junior Freedom Fighters of the J.U.S.T.I.C.E organization had the opportunity to air out some of their grievances and concerns, to be answered by a group of panelist.
Each panelist is a pillar of the Birmingham community.
Wanda Stephens– A minister who works studiously in the Greater Birmingham area to stop gun violence and bring attention to unsolved murders of children and young people.
Eric D. Perry– Mentor and youth motivational speaker for the organization We are New Generation.
P Lewis Hoomes– Highly esteemed principal and teacher of the Birmingham City School System.
Roger D. Chaney, Jr.– Self-proclaimed reformed bad boy, who is now mentoring and speaking all over the city.
Joshua J. Raby– Executive Committee Member at Jefferson County Democrats, assistant minster, and long-time mentor and public speaker in the Birmingham area.
Juliet Easlick – Diligent advocate for justice and equality in public education, locally and nationally.
De’Angela Pippen– Mentor and minster for her own organization E.Y.E.S. Also, a teacher of children fighting serious mental health challenges
Arlinda Davis, who is also an outstanding teacher of the Birmingham City School System, was the master of ceremony for Kid’s Speak Out.
The event started with a welcome, monologue, rap, and a extremely powerful version of Mariah Carey’s hit song Hero, all performed by the J.U.S.T.I.C.E Junior Freedom Fighters.
The program was then turned over to the local children and the panelist as several youngsters got to speak on issues very near and dear to their hearts.
Question about bullying, gun violence, gun control, parental relationships, leadership, and school shootings where all asked by the youth. The resounding answers by panelist were about children making changes in themselves, greater parent involvement in school, and the need to link up with positive mentors, friends, and a great church.
After the first wave of questions, several young people had the opportunity to stand and have commentary.
Two moments not only stood out, but left members of the audience and panel wiping away tears.
A very handsome fourteen-year-old young man, revealed his former suicidal thoughts as he waited to receive a kidney. The young man then revealed that he has received his kidney. Now he has a new outlook on life, thanks to his belief in God. He urged the young people to consider getting closer to God and staying positive.
Another equally charming preteen left everyone speechless as he disclosed his story. He and a friend saw on a social media site that someone was planning a school shooting. Afraid for their lives, the children wrote a will and presented it to their mothers. However, the incident proved to them both, that their will to live was far stronger than the Last Living Will and Testament they had written.
After the comments and audience questions, each parent and child got to draw from a raffle to win fun prizes such as: a basketball, bubbles, gift-sets, and toys galore.
Our mutual friend and partner Email Blast Company and Entertainment Specialist Service, Access 205, donated tickets to the upcoming Festival of Praise concert.
The event ended on a very high note as parents and kids got to rock climb, dance, take pictures with panelist, indulge in pizza, chips, soda, cake, and received goody bags loaded with candy.
After the event, I got to speak with panelist, community members, and State Leader Charisse White.
White expressed that this event meant everything to her. As a mother, she wants every child to know that they are heard and have a voice.
Minster Wanda Stephen also expressed J.U.S.T.I.C.E is an important movement. She lost her son George Powell, Jr. due to gun violence and she now presides over vigils for other families in similar situations.
I even caught up with Judge Sherri Friday who is running for her third term as probate judge locally. She revealed that she needs our votes to ensure that people in the prison system facing mental health challenges are taken care of, but tax funds go in the right hands for the right people. She also expressed how wonderful an opportunity the Kids Speak Out event was for local children. And wonderful it was.
Special thanks to the White/Davis family for hosting such an inspiring production.
To learn more about J.U.S.T.I.C.E and see how you can donate or get involved, contact Charisse White at (205)835-6697 or search “Alabama Justice” on Facebook.