Baffled and disturbed by the brutal slaying of James J. Mack and other recent homicides and shootings in the city, a group of black educators held a community panel discussion Saturday to find ways to deter city youths from criminal activities.
"We felt the community had to act," said Katherine Temple, a Buffalo schools administrator. "We cannot allow the Mack murder to be copied."
A group of 30 people, which included school officials, religious and community leaders, gathered in the King Urban Life Center for "Healing in Our Schools and Community: Stopping the Violence," sponsored by the Metropolitan Buffalo Alliance of Black School Educators.
The six-member panel was made up of school officials, youth advocates, and youth counseling and social service administrators.
The panel advocated parental and community involvement and intervention, more after-school programs, and funding of community centers and other programs as ways of turning around at-risk youths.
Truancy at an early age also should be combated because rampant truancy can lead to future run-ins with the law, said Maxine E. Hare, Buffalo schools attendance supervisor.
Her nephew, L. Nathan Hare, Western Region director of services for Berkshire Farm Center and Services for Youth, said the epidemic of youth violence should be approached with the same fervor employed in eradicating a disease outbreak.
"We have to look at this as a public health issue," he said. "We need to use that approach, because people are dying, being injured and maimed. Lives are being destroyed on our streets."
Solar Ingram, a youth advocate, said, "I'm disturbed as a young person in this community."
Ingram, 23, said she is frustrated because community members and elected officials are not doing enough to reach out to the city's youth. She challenged the attendees to donate time or money to community centers and to mentor neighborhood kids.
Ausar Afrika, who said he has attended countless forums on youth violence, said the discussion failed to get to the root of the problem.
"Violence, crime and drugs actually serve a vital social function in this society," he said. "The prison industrial complex is the fastest-growing industry in America. And when you are building prisons at the rate we are, you have to have a population identified to go in those prisons."