Created on Monday, 25 March 2013 Written by THE ASSOCIATED PRESS
CLEVELAND (AP) — Community activists hoping to find solutions to urban violence and poverty around the country will hold a national summit in Cleveland to discuss those and other problems facing U.S. cities.
Dozens of community groups, faith-based leaders, activists and gang-prevention specialists from cities including Detroit, Los Angeles, Atlanta, Kansas City, Pittsburgh and Chicago are expected to attend the event, The (Cleveland) Plain Dealer reported.
Religious leaders, grassroots organizations and anti-violence experts who deal with gun violence, gang activity, teenage pregnancy, economic development and other problems are organizing the four-day International Urban Peace, Justice and Empowerment Summit. It will begin May 30 at Cleveland State University.
Organizers say Cleveland is the perfect meeting place partly because it has a history of progressive political movements such as the election of Carl Stokes, the first black mayor of a major U.S. city.
Current gang members and former ones also will attend the conference. The outreach groups hope to develop policy that can be implemented in cities across the United States to especially help minorities and those living in poor communities.
The event also marks the 20th anniversary of a conference held in Kansas City in 1993 that organizers say was the first national gang summit.
Cleveland activist Khalid Samad, who helped organize the1993 summit, said that while Cleveland is not affected by crime to the degree of some other U.S. cities, it has had to deal with the effects of problems such as drugs, broken homes and violence.
He said Cleveland gangs mostly are neighborhood groups, largely made up of young people who don't have the structure that gangs had in the past but are more willing to use guns to get their points across.
One gang in Ohio that was established in juvenile detention facilities has now spread to prisons he said. Several local police departments monitor the group's activity online.
"If we are going to deal with this issue, then we have to be embraced more by lawmakers and the philanthropic community," Samad said. "At this conference, we will hear from people who will talk about the best practices when dealing with urban issues."
Some former gang members from Ohio and other states say they want to help young people understand how a bad decision can affect their lives forever.
Wallace "Gator" Bradley, formerly of the Gangster Disciples street gang in Chicago, works as an activist. The former alderman says he can relate to young gang members and tell them "to put down the bullets and pick up the ballot."
Rashad Byrdsong, who directs the Community Empowerment Association in Pittsburgh, Pa., views the juvenile gang problem and issues with teenage pregnancy as public health issues.
"We have to begin to construct an agenda that is pushing for policy changes and that holds politicians accountable," Byrdsong said.