Local leaders meet to discuss ways to help young black men succeed

KANSAS CITY, Mo. - The violence around St. Louis County and Ferguson, Mo., is opening up discussions right here in Kansas City about race.

On Tuesday morning, leaders from the Kansas City community met at the Kauffman Foundation to brainstorm ways to help young black men succeed. They also vowed to change the way people perceive black men in Kansas City and around the country.

The leaders, including Aim4Peace Members, El Centro members, Turn the Page KC leaders, Kansas City No Violence Alliance members, Kansas City Freedom Schools Initiative leaders and Connections to Success members, want to give young black men educational and employment opportunities and ways to break the cycle of poverty.

It's part of President Barack Obama's My Brother's Keeper Initiative.

Kansas City leaders also want to encourage positive behavior.

One focus is on eliminating retaliation, like what we're seeing outside Ferguson.

Kansas City Mayor Sly James added, "This is an opportunity that we have to actually have a conversation about race that we are always reluctant to have. It often gets swept under the rug. It's something we must address at some point. Now is that point."

Odell Jackson, a youth leader at Tuesday's event, added, "It makes me feel for the community watching what's happening in St. Louis. To see them looting and burning businesses, they're destroying their own community and doing damage to their own area. Our mindframe is being torn down and it's not like this violence is helping at all."

James says the Kansas City Police Department works hard to develop relationships in the community throughout the year.

James says for that reason, Kansas City is less likely to experience the violence playing out right now around St. Louis. 

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