‘A world on fire’: Indianapolis teens voice community concerns, hopes for change

INDIANAPOLIS (WISH) — On Tuesday night, a group of Indianapolis teens shared powerful ideas for improving their communities with city leaders.

Tuesday night’s forum was called Indy Youth Speak and was a collaboration of several partners hosted by the V.O.I.C.E.S. community arts program. The event was broadcast live on the Indianapolis Recorder Facebook page.

One teen said they’ve inherited a world on fire, and now they’re trying to put it out.

Older adults at the forum who are invested in the community said they want to help.

First, the 10 young men and women were asked to identify the biggest challenge their community faces. Each seemed to point to a problem almost as unique as the individuals themselves.

“Lack of resources and communication,” said one.

“Gun violence,” said another.

Then the young people provided their ideas for solutions. Some of those were:

  • “Push the importance of funding and donating.”
  • “We need more people to speak up and show us a different way.”
  • “I need somebody in my ear that’s been through, that’s seen their friend get killed, been in jail.”

Answers were often focused on a desire for authenticity, relationships and safe spaces where kids and teens can get together, as well as interact with adults, hopefully with food involved in a venue like a block party.

That hour of discussion was followed by 30 minutes of key community leaders, including City-County President Vop Osili and Indianapolis Urban League President and CEO Tony Mason, responding to what they’ve heard.

“We heard some really powerful voices,” Osili said.

“It was great to hear their feedback, especially now more than ever,” Mason said.

But more than just listening, it’s steps leading to action and engagement.

Osili said the council will try to create a student advisory council of some kind, as well as an effort to get young people more involved with other boards.

“We need to do a better job of bringing them in, so that’s been our goal tonight,” Osili said.

Mason said he would make an effort to broaden platforms for teens through the Project Ready program.

“We need to create larger opportunities for young people in our community, whether they’re in a Project Ready school or not,” Mason said.

As teens plead — on Tuesday with the statement, “We truly need leadership and people who are in power to truly come into our younger areas and say ‘I’m here for you, tell me what you need'” — at least on this night, their plea was heard.

“I don’t think we generally reach out to 18-year-olds or 19-year-olds and ask them to be part of this because the decisions we make today, they’re going to have to live with in the next 10-15 years,” Osili said.