INDIANAPOLIS (WISH) — The Indiana Statehouse is an entirely new experience for 17-year-old Jadon Watkins.
“It’s my first time being here,” said Watkins, who is from Gary. “It’s just a good environment.”
He joined upwards of 300 young black men for this year’s Young Black Males Matter Day at the Statehouse Tuesday.
“We want the youth to be inspired. That they can be more than what they have been stereotyped to be. They can be the governor, they can be the lieutenant governor, they can be a member of the Indiana General Assembly,” said James Garrett Jr., the executive director of the Indiana Commission on the Social Status of Black Males.
The young men, ages 12-18, heard from some state lawmakers, got Statehouse tours and some real advice, such as ignoring peer pressure that tries to take you down the wrong path, which is always on the mind of Kendall Matthews.
“I feel like it’s a lot of good advice. Sometimes you’ve got to try new things. It’s not that we don’t want to do nothing. It’s just that we don’t know how to do it. I feel that if we get example on how to do things, we’ll be able to do better,” Kendall Matthews, a 17-year-old student at George Washington High School, explained to News 8.
Another topic of conversation was violence in Indianapolis.
“Instead of other black men bringing each other up, I feel like they bring each other down. That’s what causes black men to kill other black men,” said Kelen Blinks, a 17-year-old George Washington High School student.
On Tuesday, the young men learned they already possess some of the keys to help solve the city’s violence crisis.
“In order to stem the violence that’s happening here in Indianapolis or any of the communities across the state of Indiana, we need their voice. We need their input into solutions to resolve the violence,” Garrett Jr. said.
Statehouse organizers say the voices of these young men, including Watkins, are critical in the decisions that affect every Hoosier.
Organizers are already planning next year’s event. Every young man News 8 talked to Tuesday said they will remember what they learned at the event.