In the latest response to last week’s downtown teen violence, nearly 200 people joined Mayor Greg Fischer for a walk across the Big Four Bridge Sunday afternoon, but while the event attracted a crowd, it also attracted critics, who question whether it will help solve the problems that inspired it.
The idea for the walk came from columnist Bob Hill after a string of violence on March 22 that began at Waterfront Park. There were multiple reports of robberies and assaults and four teenagers have been arrested so far. The walk was meant to address concerns that the park and bridge were no longer safe, but some are wondering who got the message.
One Louisville man, known as Brother Mahi, said he was upset with the small representation of the teenage and West Louisville communities at Sunday’s event.
“You can’t have these pulpit preachers and block watch people, no, you need people to actually step out in the parks and take hands together,” he said. “This, just looking at things, is not going to help anything.”
Christopher 2X, a community activist, said event organizers were not “equipped” to reach out to teens.
“They need to be, though,” he said. “Here’s another clashing, one o’clock on a Sunday is worship service in the black community, it clashed with that, big time.”
Mayor Fischer said everybody in the community was invited.
“Anybody that wanted to show up could show up,” he said.
Dorien Birdsong, 14, said even if teens did show up, they would struggle to relate to the people who attended.
Birdsong said adults, especially those in suits, have a hard time influencing teenagers. He said it takes people getting “seriously hurt” or “locked up” before teenagers begin to change behaviors. He said there was no other way.
When asked why he doesn’t get involved in deviant behavior, he pointed to his parents. His mother, Rena Birdsong, said parental involvement is the root of the problem.
“It angers me that it has come to this,” she said.
Lawrence Webb, 15, said for events like Sunday’s community walk to have an impact on teenagers, more teens need to be involved.
He said the best way to get a message across to a teenager is to “do fun stuff” — not talk about it.
More community conversations are scheduled in the coming week to discuss ways to engage teens. Security and surveillance have also been increased in Waterfront Park and the surrounding area.