Advocacy for Louisville Youth Begins with Validating Their Stories



Darryl Young Jr.

It was not even 7 a.m. when I heard my phone ringing while I was in the shower. Once I got out I found out that he was one of my mentees. I tried to call back and I was unsuccessful. I texted at 7:06 am and asked him if he was “okay”.

It was September 22. About an hour later, I discovered the tragic shooting that claimed Tyree Smith’s life and injured two others. My text message timestamp tells me it was 12:11 p.m. when I found out my mentee was texting me because the shooting took place outside his house and he was out and had tried to help the victims. He said he called because he didn’t know what to do and needed someone to call.

I share this story because it accurately describes both sides of the predicament we find ourselves in here in our city.

On the one hand, desperation, anger and grief are palpable as Louisville experiences another bloody and violent year. We are once again forced to hashtag a name attached to a body that has not been allowed to reach its full potential. Another youngster left too soon, leaving too many others to mourn.

It also denotes the fact that through misery, through sorrow and through pain, this community is still fighting for our young people. We are still there and in the trenches. In meeting rooms and non-profit offices. In places of worship and classrooms. In community centers and street corners that seek to be a stopgap for violence. Young people are and should play an essential role in any serious endeavor.

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As sick and tired of being sick and tired as we are, there are people who are dedicated to finding and advocating for difficult solutions to the generational and systemic issues facing our young people.

We, the Coalition Supporting Young Adults, or CSYA, a collective action initiative of community organizations and individuals who come together to meet the needs of youth and young adults in Louisville, Kentucky, who are disconnected; outside of school and work due to structural racism, poverty, homelessness, educational disruption, childhood trauma and related challenges, recognizes the need to bring to light the stories of those who have been on the front line to defend our young people.

This space will serve to highlight the courageous and necessary work that is being done to address the issues facing our youth in Louisville. Through The Courier Journal, we will have the chance to uplift the stories and voices of community champions who wake up every day working to make this city better for young people.

You will hear from the CSYA, but also our partner organizations to share stories, data, challenges and successes on the ground. Most importantly, we will provide a space for young people, the real youth experts, to give us their perspective and strategies on how to make this city work for them.

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You can no longer point the finger and ask what the next person is going to do. And we can’t continue the same tired tale of “bad kids” and overly punitive responses that don’t address the root causes and ultimately hold young people back instead of propelling them forward. We hope the words you read in this space inspire you to take action and create a Louisville that allows our youth to thrive.

Darryl Young Jr. is the Executive Director of the Coalition Supporting Young Adults



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