Yesterday, I was  invited to attend a community outreach meeting   to learn more about  Mayor Antonio R. Villaraigosa’s’  Summer Night Lights,  Gang Reduction and Youth Development  Program.  It was my first time visiting Los Angeles City Hall and I had no idea it was such a beautiful and historical building.  I was in awe as I traveled through the corridors hardly able to contain my excitement.  I felt like a school girl on my first field trip!!!!   The City Hall is a beautiful building and our meeting was held on the 26th floor in the Mayor Bradley’s Conference Room.  It was a small group of faith-based community partners and we spent time networking and enjoying the continental breakfast.  I shared a table with a lovely woman from Venice California and we were chatting away.  To my amazement, I looked up   to the  front of the room and  Mayor Villaraigosa was standing at the podium.   I did not see him come into the room.  I had seen him many times on television however it was only my second  time seeing him in person.    I tried not to make a spectacle of myself as I snapped a picture of him with my camera phone.

  It was obvious that this program was important to him. He talked about the success of the gang reduction program as well as extended an invitation to Faith Based Organizations to partner with LA County to help reduce gang violence.  I was impressed  with the program and look forward to volunteering this summer.   As Executive Director of New Impression,  my function is to attend meeting .  When I received this invitation to the Mayor’s Office of Gang Reduction and Youth Development community outreach meeting, never in my wildest imagination did I expect to see the Mayor. He humbly apologized that he could not stay due to the fact that he was en route to a funeral.   However he took the time to share a little about the program. Mayor Villaraigosa indicated that    The Summer Night Lights program was launched in 2008 in eight recreation and parks facilities to offer fun-filled positive opportunities for young people living in the most crime ridden communities.  In 2009, the program was expanded to include housing developments and a school throughout the City of Los Angeles.   He emphasized that  SNL is a violence reduction strategy which provides an extended programming between the hours of 7pm to midnight, 4 days a week throughout the summer months. I learned that the summer is when gang violence is at the highest resulting in many homicides. Consequently, the purpose of SNL is to create safe environments during the peak times for violence and in communities most affected by violence. This programming is for the entire community which includes those who are potential victims and potential perpetrators of violence.   

After the Mayor left, we spent two hours learning more about the program.  For example, that the youth are fed while at the parks and given opportunity for employment as well.   We were a small group however the energy in the room was electrifying.  I met some terrific people.  New Impression will be volunteering to help work with the youth this summer.  I truly needed this motivation as it is hard work, developing a grass-roots organization.  However yesterday’s meeting reminded me that the work we do(community activist) is important.   Many of us live in high crime areas and are aware of the dangers associated with gang violence.  We are all affected by gang violence in one way or another.  If  the violence is not contained, it will and has spilled into other communities as well.  I am excited and committed to doing my share to help promote the Mayor’s Summer Night Lights Program.

When was the last time you reached out to a youth?  Or made a trip to  a Boys or Girls Club? Thought about mentoring a youth? It is time to focus on our future before we end up in a Clock Work Orange Society.  The youth is our future!   If you don’t have the time.  Consider donating to a local homeless shelter program  or inner school program.  Yes, I know first hand, it is better to give than to receive.

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