Anti-Gang Project Provides ‘Safe Place to Talk’ for Youth in New CreaTV Show

A new TV program is coming to the airwaves in January, but it won’t be the creation of industry moguls in Hollywood or New York.

[/media-credit] Kristi Morrow and Aaron Carrera listen to ideas at CreaTV.

Youth Voice, which will be broadcast on CreaTV, is the work of a group of teens and 20-somethings. Without a TV executive in sight, they meet weekly to hash out the issues affecting their neighborhoods, zeroing in on crime and gangs.

“There is no other program that takes the youth voice to talk to youth,” said Kristi Morrow, a 22-year-old who is part of the Youth Voice Initiative.

The goal of the program is, quite simply, to reduce gang violence by giving youth a place to talk safely about the real issues they face and provide participants with such skills such as interviewing and production.

“This being Silicon Valley, they (the Mayor’s Gang Prevention Task Force), wanted to use multimedia to invest in educating youth,” said Youth Voice Initiative organizer Aaron Carrera. “Our stories can help others feel less alone. We can give them a voice to relate to and safe place to talk.”

The Mayor’s Gang Prevention Task Force created the Youth Voice Initiative after receiving a $10,000 grant from Target, which also gave grants to five other cities that are part of the U.S Justice Department’s National Forum on Youth Violence Prevention.

The forum brings the cities together with federal departments to create anti-gang strategies. Joining San Jose are Salinas, Boston, Chicago, Detroit and Memphis. In September, New Orleans, Philadelphia, Minneapolis and Camden, N.J., were added.

With the grant, CreaTV, a nonprofit serving San Jose, is training the Youth Voice Initiative participants to use the station’s equipment, from shooting to editing.

“They are not only learning how to put a TV show together, they are learning how to solve problems” by actually creating the show themselves, said Pam Kelly, CreaTV’s marking director. “Most importantly, they are engaging their community.”

In the first show, one of the participants interviewed a youth support group leader about how youth can build self-confidence and find connections outside of gangs.

[/media-credit] Jared Sandoval is a Youth Voice Initiative participant.

The goal is to complete as many as three more before the grant runs out at the end of the year. And that takes a lot of planning. On a recent Tuesday evening, the group wrestled with what to cover next.

“What about education?” 16-year-old Irvin Durant suggested. “Our parents think we are safe at school, but that’s not always the case.”

The group agreed that the idea was good, but eventually settled in on role models. Why are there so few? What does it mean to be a woman or a man and where do young people learn that, they asked.

“This is it,” said Youth Voice participant Miguel Ozuena. “This is what people want to hear. They want to know what is real.”

In the next show, the group will talk to participants of the CYP youth mentoring program that pairs adults and young people. The young people will talk about the benefits of having an adult who cares in their lives. The adults will share what they have learned from the kids.

It’s when these groups get together that something can be done to stop the violence, Carrera said. He hopes it could be a program that other communities could replicate.

“Look,” he told the group, “we are part of something big here.”