When it comes to improving conditions for young men of color, the teens from Los Angeles’ Brotherhood Crusade weren’t afraid to reveal their stories, even in the presence of U.S. Atty. Gen. Eric H. Holder Jr.
Holder sat down with twelve young men last week in South L.A. to hear their concerns for male adolescents like themselves.
“I wanted to come out here talk to you all and listen to the issues you’re confronting and the things you are dealing with and have a conversation,” Holder told the youth.
He spoke about growing up in New York and how he was not different then the young men sitting in the circle.
“At the end of the day I am you,” he said.
Among the key topics in the round table were healthy relationships with law enforcement and the lack of positive role models and mentors.
Marcus Davis, 21, spoke to Holder about the lack of communication he sees from some of peace officers in his neighborhood.
“I see a lot of police officers that patrol the streets and I see a lot of them that sit in their cars, but I think that it would help if they would come to the schools,” said Davis, “Chat it up with some of the students and show that it’s not us against them.”
These interactions can lead to a foundation of trust that can blossom into understanding, he added.
The young adults also discussed the need for positive role models.
“The more people…that look like you do, who show you passion, show you commitment — it awakens a little fire in you and makes you want to do better,” said Eric Hercules, 22. “I think all of us sitting right here can say we’ve all had a man in our life that told us right from wrong.”
Holder responded by talking about the My Brother’s Keeper initiative that President Barack Obama spearheaded, which hopes to improve the lives of young men of color through mentorship.
Corleone Han, a 19-year-old Program Assistant for Khmer Girls in Action, said she is particularly concerned about the Southeast Asian community.
“There is a lot of work to be done especially within the Southeast Asian community,” said Han. “Nobody is talking about the Cambodian minority.”
At the end of the round table discussion some of the young men were left with an enthused hope for the future.
“It was pretty enlightening,” said Hercules, after the event.
“I think it’s really important that someone of his caliber showed up to 54th and Crenshaw to find out how I’m doing today.”
Israel Frank, 21, added, “I felt like we got a huge opportunity to share an inside perspective of our community.”
After Holder made his leave, the young men speculated about whether or not this event would be successful in progressing their issues. Time will only tell if their voices will indeed reach the White House, as promised.
Frank said he hopes so.
“I’m really looking forward to see what they are going do with this information,” he said.