LOUISVILLE, Ky. — We have an entire generation growing up with yearly school shootings, living through the pandemic and an seeing increase in violence.
Teenagers are a group often left without a seat at the table.
WHAS11 News went to Roots 101 African American Museum and sat down with 10 teenagers ranging in age from 14 to 17-years-old.
They attend different schools around Jefferson County and yet all of them have felt the stress the unprecedented violence is taking on our community.
So far in 2021, about 21 kids under the age of 18 have been killed in Louisville. Twenty of those incidents stemmed from gun violence. What’s even more troubling, six of the homicide cases involved suspects ranging from 11 to 17-years old.
“You don’t have to have enemies for a bullet to have your name on it,” LaCrissa, a senior at Central High School said. “I mean, I don't even have to walk out of the door to feel some type of anxiety about my life today or tomorrow.”
It was a common sentiment many of the teens shared throughout the discussion.
Caleb: This can happen anywhere in the city. You’re not safe, not in every single square inch.
Ja’Kiem: Sometimes I get a little paranoid – I’m already checking like where I’m at so I worry about my surroundings all the time because I’m scared at times that it could be me, or someone that’s close to me – so it makes me in a constant worry.
LaTasha: You have to really keep a lookout for it. Because you know, we never know what's going to happen, when is going to happen. You just have to be aware of your surroundings.
Emma: It's happening everywhere. We don't know where it's gonna come from next. And it might be us that’s on the end of that.
Aaliyah: We're not safe at school. You can't be safe at home. We can't be safe by the park? So where are we supposed to be safe? Nowhere.
Louisville teens share thoughts on violence during WHAS11 News roundtable discussion
Schools, homes or even the community parks, things that were considers safe spaces, are no longer sanctuaries for kids.
Many of them have grown up doing active shooting trainings and it’s not uncommon for them to hear that a gun was found on their school campus. This past September, Eastern High student Tyree Smith was killed while waiting for a school bus.
“We talk about active shooter drills and what we're supposed to do in those scenarios. What happens when it's on a bus stop when you're waiting for a school bus, and then you get shot? You know, we don't talk about how to prepare for situations like that. Because the reality is, we don't know how to prepare for that,” Emma said.
Kristin: How many of you guys have been impacted or seen the violence that's happening in Louisville? How does that make you feel?
Jeriah: You don't know what those kids could have done for the world, you don't know if they killed the next president. They don't know if they killed the next person that could have cured the next disease they might have came on. You don't know what they could have been. They could have been some great, they could have changed our nation.
Zyon: I mean, you live in Louisville, you get impacted. It's like a sense of fear that like just dwells on you. Because you don't know if it's gonna happen at school. You don't know if you just gonna walk down that neighborhood take out your dog and then someone comes up looking for somebody because a bullet don't have no name. It just goes.
The fights start on social media, whether that be bullying or insults.
Ja’Kiem: Social media is a way where you can start a small argument with somebody over that and then it turns into something like attempted killing, or attempted murder.
Lacrissa: Kids are really being raised by TikTok like I feel like adults in today's society don't take out the time like even if they're not sure kids they don't take out the time to try to help raise kids that need that guidance.
Kristin: So what do you guys think is causing the issue?
Caleb: Just our way of socialization has changed so much in the past few years that we've really lost, kind of, like how we actually communicate and how we make friends.
Keyshawn: One of the main reasons that there is so much gun violence in the young community is because people want to people grow up in neighborhoods full of poverty.
Jayden: I feel like the schools, like the school boards should step up because they know that it's going to keep happening and keep happening.
Emma: We have to start investing in the communities that need it the most.
Kristin: What do you think that the community can do to help the younger generation to ensure that the violence at least lowers?
Keyshawn: Us not being unified is what’s going to make us not be able to lower these gun violent rates. We just need to get some unity over the whole Louisville right now.
LaCrissa: Take more time out to talk to the people who are causing the community to be so disruptive instead of trying to fix it. Like I said, personally, if I'm going down the wrong path and you just keep ridiculing me for it, I'm not going to change.
Aaliyah: A lot of people just need someone to talk to, someone to look up to. Like when you look down everyone, nothing's gonna change at all.
Zyon: The community, they need therapists so they can get themselves in order and and help the young people -- helping their minds develop and learning good coping skills because you will have to go through things, that’s just life.
CJ: What would you say to politicians, particularly Kentucky politicians like Mitch McConnell, Rand Paul and Congressman John Yarmuth about gun violence?
Emma: We have the power to say no more, we have the power to say, you're going to address this, or we're going to find somebody that who will, we can't not talk about it. Because the longer we don't talk about it, the worse it's gonna get. [We are] calling our representatives, making sure that our voices are heard, and that, you know, we really enforced it. We're not gonna allow this to continue, we can't allow this to continue, we won't send our kids to school and not get to see them home tonight.
Lacrissa: We elected you to be our protectors. If you're the lawmaker, then you have the ability and the power to make the laws to protect us. But you refusing to do that, what did I vote you in for? All of the people that are coming into age to vote with the fact that y'all aren't making the laws that you all need to make, ya’ll are definitely about to lose your job.
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