By Ryan Michaels
The Birmingham Times
On Saturday, dozens of students from across Jefferson County gathered at Woodlawn High School in Birmingham for a Community Teen Summit centered on violence prevention.
Students were given the opportunity to participate in numerous events including West African drumming, yoga and a resource fair featuring more than 15 organizations, including Miles College, the Addiction Prevention Coalition and multiple counseling services.
Rayaan Muhammed, a student at Alabama School of Fine Arts in Birmingham, was impressed to learn that the West African drum was a tool used to resolve disputes among the men of the village. The practice, he said, could help in places like Birmingham.
“It’s about resolving issues peacefully and coming together and stopping the violence, really,” Muhammed said.
The summit, organized by nonprofit Fine Arts Find Life, in tandem with the city of Birmingham, Birmingham City Schools Department of Social and Emotional Learning and the Birmingham Police Department, was held from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m.
Parents in attendance could participate in their own improv session, and both teens and adults heard from speakers like Jefferson County District Attorney Danny Carr and Director of Psychological and Behavioral Services for the Alabama Department of Mental Health, Dr. Eliza Bell, respectively.
During his address, Carr shared a recent story of a 17-year-old girl who is facing up to life in prison because of her complicity in a crime her boyfriend committed.
“Guess who’s now in prison, and guess who’s not right now because they’re on the run — him,” Carr said.
“When you surround yourself with certain people, there are certain things you can’t come back from,” he said.
Bell, who spoke to parents about their mental health needs, said without properly handling mental stress, parents are passing those negative feelings onto their children.
“When you can think about the stress that you’ve been dealing with for years our kids are feeling that too,” Bell told parents. “They’ve been stressed and it’s staying around. It’s not going away. Stress usually resolves when the situation resolves…but if it doesn’t, and it’s still continuing, you want to look at that,” Bell said.
Updated at 9:48 a.m. on 3/13/2023 to clarify two separate quotes from Carr.