There’s enough blame to go around for what happened last weekend, for the violence that began on the Big Four Bridge and then spread to other parts of downtown Louisville.
There’s the young people themselves — the ones who went on a rampage and beat up generally helpless people and made fun of those who cried during the attacks, including a little girl who watched as her grandfather was pummelled by young boys and girls with no sense of character or direction.
It’s awful that the 200 or so rampaging youth were African American and many, if not most of their victims were not. And it belies logic for the mayor and police chief to stand before us and say it wasn’t a racial incident. It was, but there’s a lot more to it than that, and we’d all be fools to reduce this horrible moment of our city’s history to such a simple explanation.
One of the most challenging and disturbing aspects of this event — these events, because there have been more than one — is that the young people involved seemed to think they’re playing some type of game. It’s a “game” that has plagued society for years, not just since the invention of cell phones, Twitter and Facebook.
If you don’t believe that, take a gander at some early Marlon Brando or James Dean movies. So don’t think for a minute that we’re facing a new phenomena; and don’t think for a minute that the rest of us don’t share some of the blame for not coming up with answers, for not doing enough to change things.
At the same time, it’s important to know and remember that there are scores of people in the Archdiocese of Louisville who are working every day to help solve the problems created by youth violence. They are working to provide guidance, leadership — and most of all love — to a younger generation often bereft of all three of those human essentials.
The Catholic Enrichment Center alone offers more than two dozen programs for the people of the community of west Louisville. And many of those programs are directed specifically at and for young people. Youth ministers at parishes throughout the Archdiocese of Louisville are diligently steering young people toward the peace and happiness that Christ can bring.
Kim Telesford-Mapp, director of the center at 3146 W. Broadway, knows what the community is up against when it comes to changing the course of the lives of young people to whom fate has dealt a difficult — sometimes nearly impossible — hand.
“We have classes for young women, teaching them to make their own jewelry that they can wear to the prom,” she noted. “We have a drama program for kids who get to perform at the Kentucky Center for the Arts. We have a partnership with the Family and Children’s Place to have a counselor who comes here every Tuesday to help children who’ve been victimized in one way or another and are dealing with grief.”
Telesford-Mapp said she and the staff at the center “are always searching for kids who need to be reached.”
“We have a ‘Soup Group’ that gathers to write poetry, and we have a program called ‘It Takes a Village’ that grew directly out of the triple murders that happened a while ago,” she explained. “There were two men from the Park-Duvalle neighborhood who said ‘people are always talking about doing something, so we ought to do something, too.’ And they helped us start that program.
“We know that some of them think it’s all a game,” she explained. “But there’s a lot more to it than that; there’s a lot more happening in the lives of these children that needs to be addressed.”
Sit and talk with them a while, she said, and you’ll learn that many — perhaps most — of the youngsters “have been through horrifying experiences.”
“They’ve seen these horrible things and they build up what I call ‘walls of anger’ around themselves,” she said. “We have a foster grandparent program that provides one of the ways we try to chip away at that anger. But this is going to take a lot of people offering a lot of help.”
The city’s young people, like those everywhere, see beatings from other cities on social media; they tweet those images to one another and they laugh at the consequences of the often-violent attacks.
“They do think it’s a game, and it’s not just here, it’s all across the country,” Telesford-Mapp said. “What we can’t do is give up,” she said. “We have to reach these kids; we have to help them find meaningful lives.”
One way we can all stand up to the recent violence is to attend a “Rally for Compassion and Peace” that’s being held at 3 p.m. April 6 at the Big Four Bridge. Interfaith Paths to Peace is sponsoring the event, which is intended to “express our grief over what happened in our streets; demonstrate our compassion and support for those who were injured and terrorized; offer our gratitude to the gentleman who came to the aid of a young woman who was under attack and then was beaten himself; give voice to our hopes for peace and renew our commitment to non-violence.”
Showing up sounds like a good idea. Walking across the bridge — a wonderful community asset — sends a message that our church and our Holy Father has sent to all of us:
Love conquers hate and peace will triumph over violence.