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Congratulations to Kayla Neville for winning Q93′s Prom Takeover Contest with her essay “504 Violence Turnaround”

504  Violence  Turnaround”
Kayla Neville
De La Salle High School

            Six days, twenty hours and three minutes ago, two teenagers my age, were shot in the city I love, New Orleans.  This time, violence broke through the peaceful grounds of a safe “house party” which was planned and supervised by adults where most of my friends attended. Two injured and in stable condition was the outcome which sounds like a popular headline in the New Orleans Advocate. Right? It seems as though violence is the natural visitor as teenagers like myself attempt to do what our parents did safely at this age like socialize, attend a safe school, visit a park, and drive with friends in a car. Lately, the reality of violence has become like the brother or sister of death. It seems like in this city known as the birthplace of jazz, violence has slowly crept up to steal such fame. Why? Is the question most asked.  It is more important to respond with a solution rather than continue to text “SMH”, shaking my head, or “that’s so sad.” Although violence hurts and appears to be out of control in my community, there are many things which can be done to make it a safer place where teenagers, and even adults can learn to interact nonviolently. 

            The first way we can create a more nonviolent community is for everyone to commit to being a “difference maker.”  At my age, this may sound corny but the reality is that if every child, teenager and adult made an effort to use the manners such as respect, honesty, loyalty taught at home, school and church we can be on the right track. Unfortunately, the truth is, when conflict arise, most people are unaware how to use those manners. It would be beneficial if schools are required to teach character building, conflict resolution and anti bullying as a class not just a topic. More importantly, teenagers like myself, must have the courage to seek help from parents, school or police when there is a problem before it escalates to violence.

            If given the support by our Mayor and community members, I would launch a campaign entitled, “ 504 Violence Turnaround.”  This would be a movement created by teens, like myself, where we connect and collaborate with each other to promote peaceful time together at different playgrounds or neighborhood locations one Saturday a month. During these times, teenagers can participate in organized activities which can create a positive connection such as a Spoken Word, Poetry and Rap Showcase with a non violent theme.  Guest appearances by well known artists from New Orleans or elsewhere who will promote conflict resolution tips would be planned and a great motivation. Also included would be the opportunity for different schools to have short reenactment plays of normal conflicts faced with nonviolent solutions.

            More importantly, I would suggest to parents, our political leaders, and Louisiana lawmakers to make us, the younger generation, priority. Although I have been well supported by my parents and family, being a member of the Teen Council of New Orleans Recreational Department Commission has allowed me to respect individual differences while interacting with teens across New Orleans. Due to support received, I have developed into a teen that is a “difference maker”.  I sometimes wonder how much safer my city would be if every child and teen would have something positive to do when not at school, like I have. I think if parents give support and leaders and businesses continue to invest in activities and incentives for us, the community will be less violent.

             Violence has plagued our community for many years but I believe that New Orleans still has more good; in the people, their hearts, oh and the food too. We all should work to follow the actions of Dr. Martin Luther King, Mandela, and Mahatma Ghandi and never forget the power of one. I am confident that my thoughts highlighted would work to create a nonviolent community.

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