Facebook Gun Violence Post Leads to Empowering Youth Event
The recent spike in youth gun violence in Wichita has been a hot topic, and the police and community are desperately searching for ways to connect with youth. On Mon Oct. 11, Riah Wilkins and a group of concerned community residents hosted over 200 youth at the New Life Outreach Center for an evening of music, free food, games, and speakers.
The AIM, or Activate, Inspire and Motivate, youth social event was organized following a viral emotional Facebook post by Wilkins, 29, who asked for support from parents and others to foster a stronger relationship with Wichita youth.
"I see the news about kids being shot, and it is concerning and upsetting, so I posted on Facebook that I wanted to see the youth come together on positivity. I also wanted to tell parents and the community if this is going to be a better place for all of us, we have to take accountability and play our part," said Wilkins, a lash technician and Wichita native.
Tequila Dawson, Ulysses DeShazer and Lawanda Deshazer all saw Wilkins' post and reached out to her about hosting an event against gun violence. The trio, along with Wilkins, formed a Facebook group message and, over several weeks, created the AIM youth event.
The organizers wanted to avoid the stereotypical mixing of Black children and guns, so rather than labeling AIM as a youth gun violence event, they promoted a more positive event message.
"As community leaders, we want to activate or inform the youth about what's going on in their community and ways to get involved, and then inspire them to want more for themselves and others. Lastly, to motivate them to spread the word and encourage their friends to spend more time together in a positive way," said Wilkins.
The free event also provided a space for people to voice their concerns about the uptick in gun violence. New Life's pastor Fred Hayes Jr. also announced, as an alternative to being in the streets, he will continue to make his church facilities available to youth for basketball, Bible study, and fellowship space. .
Wilkins and the other AIM organizers will continue to support and aid in the ongoing effort to restore a once village-like solid relationship with the youth.