The city’s response to violent outbreaks in the downtown Louisville area is drawing criticism from some in the teenage community.
Last week, Mayor Greg Fischer announced more than 20 security cameras would be added to the Waterfront Park area and that Metro Police presence would be boosted.
But local hip-hop DJ Young Commercial, 25, who is well-known in the teen community, says the $227,000 needed to install the cameras could be better spent elsewhere.
“Why did you invest in some cameras when we are telling you we need activities,” he said. “You are trying to make those other people in those nice cars feel safe when they come downtown, that’s all it is. Just another way to keep that money down there. You’re ready for that, but you’re not ready to help us. You’re helping yourself before you help anybody else, and that’s all it is.”
“Do you know how many kids’ lives I could change with that much money,” he said.
Young Commercial, born Shemonte Mayfield, grew up in west Louisville at 39th and Market Streets. He organizes weekly parties for teens across the city, and said the violence among Louisville’s youth is nothing new.
“What’s so different about it now, because some lady got beat up, what is so different about us beating ourselves up,” he said. “It’s been here, it isn’t going anywhere, no time soon.”
City officials have participated in a handful of events in the aftermath of March 22 violence at Waterfront Park.
Fischer joined nearly 200 people this past Sunday who walked across the Big Four Bridge in a demonstration of peace. Earlier this week, four Metro Council members rode a TARC bus to encourage residents not to be afraid of using public transit after a teenager was stagged to death during an altercation.
But Young Commercial, along with west Louisville resident Jayjuan Taylor, 14, challenged city officials to go to the areas where violence rules.
“Come to Beecher Terrace (housing complex), walk through there,” Taylor said. “But no one is going to talk to you in that suit.”
Community Centers Not Enough
The mayor’s office organized two separate forums for teenage boys and girls days after the incidents, but the talking, it seems, has ran its course. Both men agreed that teenagers are tired of discussing the problem and said leaders need to show young people how to succeed, not tell them.
“Show me something better,” Young Commercial said. “Show me a better life. Teach me how to better myself instead of telling me how to better myself.”
So, what should the $227,000 be used for? If you’re thinking community centers, you’re wrong.
“The people in the centers are doing it for a paycheck,” Young Commercial said. “They’re not doing nothing.”
Taylor also questioned the professionalism of those working in area community centers. He said the last time he was at a community center, he witnessed an employee cussing at a woman on the phone.
Young Commercial suggests using the public money to set up employment programs for young people. As for boosting police presence, the local hip-hop DJ said that is a recipe for “infuriation.”
“They need to plan alternative things, rather than jail,” he said.
They argue that officers are more interested in the “next big bust” to advance their careers rather than preventing crime or saving lives.
“All cops aren’t bad,” said Young Commercial. “But, all cops aren’t good. You might be able to save a kids life, instead of ending it.”
Don’t Step Back from Young People
To date, four teens have been arrested in connection with the violent outbreak at Waterfront Park. More arrests are expected as the city seeks to quell concerns about downtown being unsafe.
But when a young person gets arrested and sentenced to jail or prison, they come out a “better criminal” with a larger reputation Young Commercial said. And when a young person is a victim of a violent act, if they survive, they earn credit on the street they may not have had before.
“Everybody is living to get shot,” he said. “If you live through that, you’re the man.”
Just this week, an 18-year-old man was arrested for posting threatening Facebook messages about “killing” taking place at Thunder Over Louisville.
Taylor told WFPL the only way young people can work into the public conversation or feel community inclusion is “through violence.”
“No more talking, we’ve said all we can say, tried all we can try, so now we turn to violence,” he said. “When we act out and show out, that’s the only time they reach out to us.”
The mayor has said the city can help, but that change needs to first start with parents, religious leaders and people in those communities.
Young Commercial said it is time for community leaders to “step up,” not step back from young people.
“Work with me so I can work with you. When you look to the city for entertainment and programming, that’s when you know it’s gone too far,” he said. “It’s got to start a little closer to home.”