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Kansas City, Missouri, advocates for youth describe culture of violence that leads to tragedy

Branden Mims – AdHoc Group Against Crime
Posted at 10:32 PM, Feb 20, 2024

KANSAS CITY, Mo. — If you ask youth advocates about the cause of youth violence in the area, you're bound to get a lot of different answers. But there is a agreement on one fact: Violent behavior starts young.

"You can't grow a kid up any faster than what we're doing right now when they're going to funerals every other week," said Pat Clarke, a force in community outreach in Kansas City's Oak Park neighborhood.

Brandem Mims with AdHoc Group Against Crime says the constant exposure to violence is destructive on a young life.

"So when I’m talking to a 17-year-old who is already failing high school and probably not attending anymore, the prospects on life are very bleak," Mims said. "So to ask them to consider someone else's life when they don’t really have an idea of what they’re going to do with their own doesn’t even resonate with them. They don’t consider anybody else because they haven’t really considered themselves.”

It's a race against time, a race that can statistically end for kids 14-years-old or younger as violent crimes increase.

People like Mims, Clarke, and Martin Cervantes with Lowriding 2 Success in Kansas City, Kansas, all try to be good influences, but they're battling against bad influences in a child's life.

"A lot of these kids don't have a man in their life with influence," Clarke said. "They have men in their lives that actually give them the gun."

An environment filled with crime and violence can make seeing the finish line all but impossible.

"They're not seeing themselves," Cervantes said. "They're not seeing the true person that they really are. They put on a face every morning and want to be someone they're not. So we help them re-imagine their lives. We help them to see themselves as humans."

There are plenty of reasons for the culture of violence.

But stopping the violent can start with an individual.

"Self-worth is a key," Cervantes said. "We want them to be themselves again. We want them to be happy, we want them to have a vision, a goal in life. And there's nothing wrong with growing up faster, but doing it right."