Man, I can’t believe this. R.I.H Khaleel Kimbrough You never even bothered anybody. All you did is make us laugh 😔 Makes me never want to go back there..

R.I.P. Khaleel 😔 This really hits home. It’s so sad that we are losing amazing people…Time to fix our city.

Before I became a mentor, stories of homicides in our city were just names in the paper, killed on streets that I rarely, if ever, had driven down. Now that I am blessed to have mentoring relationships with so many kids in this city, my heart breaks every time I hear of a shooting. I know it is going to be someone’s sibling, or cousin, or friend, and the shooting likely happened in a neighborhood where I have dropped kids off or picked kids up. I wait for the texts and Facebook posts and I pray for the people who have to visualize what those final moments must have been like for this young person that they loved, a person that had promise and potential that we, as a community, either did not develop or did not protect.

So, this blog post is directed straight to the high schoolers and young adults in Canton. If I am lucky enough to mentor you or have been in your classroom, you know that I think you are amazing. We have talked about how important you are to the future success of our city. We may have also talked about culture of Canton and how you are the only ones who can change it.

So, now I’m asking you, what can we do? And even more important, what are you willing to do?

If you are someone who wants to help create change, I want to hear from you. I want to hear your thoughts and your ideas and I will help you get them heard. Because you shouldn’t have to live like this. You shouldn’t be worried about summer “heating up” or that you need to “stay out of the way”. You shouldn’t believe that this city has nothing to offer you. When you start thinking like that, your life and your mind becomes smaller and smaller. This city has a lot to offer. It’s on us to do a better job of connecting you to it and embracing you as part of it.

So, here’s a couple ways we are going to start:

First, if you are in grades 9-12, register for the Grace Initiative’s Our Minds Matter Teen Summit on April 22 at the McKinley Downtown campus. You will get free foods, a gift card, a t-shirt and other swag. But more importantly, you will get a chance to talk and learn about the things going on in your life and how to keep you and your friends mentally healthy when you feel surrounded by chaos. You’ll meet really cool people, like former Ohio State Buckeye Maurice Clarret, and have your mind opened up. Plus, it will give us a chance to meet you and start hearing your ideas. Click here to register.

Second, come to watch the movie “Romeo Is Bleeding” on Thursday, April 27 at the Canton Palace Theater. I will give you free tickets. It’s a documentary about how a group of young people tackled the violence they saw going on around them in their neighborhood of Richmond, California. The movie features Donte Clark, who aspired to be the biggest drug dealer in Richmond until he realized he could be so much more. Donte will be here to talk with you after the movie about about how you can become a leader in driving change.

Third, if you have ideas of how to make things better, message me on Facebook or Twitter (@misslauriemo) and I will get your ideas heard. If I get enough response, I will pull you all together and try to figure out a way to get you paid to put your ideas into action this summer.

There are no easy fixes and these probably feel like empty words to those of you who lost a young man that you cared about last night. I am so very sorry. It is a loss for you and a loss for our community. But please don’t believe you are helpless. I often see comments that there is nothing to do for the kids of Canton or that systems are set up for you to fail. All I can tell you is that there are people out here who want to help you succeed, who are trying to create opportunities for you, and who are trying really hard to make things better. But, you have to do your part. You can’t just sit on Facebook and rely on someone else to create the change. You can be the ones to do it, if you have the courage. And I promise, if you do, the things you learn, the people you will meet, and the connections you make will change your life.

As someone who mentors kids of all genders, races and socioeconomic levels, my most important job is to first, listen and learn. This spoken word from Donte Clark, who will be our guest at the Canton Film Festival, is a powerful form of education.

Donte Clark “Let Me Breathe”