Richmond youth celebrate hope, inspiration

August 8, 2009 5:36:03 PM PDT
Richmond has been plagued with shootings in recent weeks. It has been so bad a lot of people have been staying indoors. But on Saturday, the Ryse Youth Center held its Ryse Summer Jam in hopes of giving kids a safe place to enjoy the summer.

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The goal was to bring the community together in a peaceful way, which in light of the 30 homicides in Richmond this year, is more important than ever.

In more than one Richmond neighborhood, it is all about choosing the right path because for some time, many in the East Bay city feel they have been following the wrong one.

"In Richmond, trouble looks for you. You got to find your own way, set your own footsteps, because it's hard out here," Elvis Torrentes told ABC7.

That is why those at the Ryse Youth Center are trying to make things a little easier. It is a place for at-risk youth to come and just hang out. The focus of the center's summer jam festival Saturday was to show that change can happen.

"I believe it will happen, not over night but step-by-step, gradually it will happen," said Lerib Blankenship.

On the other hand, Adrayanna Leonard told ABC7, "Events like that won't help. Not at all."

Leonard and Saraia Johnson have lived in Richmond all their lives. They did not go to the Ryse event. They not only did not know about it, but they also do not think it will do much good.

"They just had the fight the violence thing at the park and everything and it still didn't change that much. People just got to change themselves," Johnson said.

The teenagers have first-hand experience with Richmond's violence. Their 14-year-old cousin was shot and killed just last week.

"All the stuff that's going on, it's like inside issues with people's families and stuff. So, it's deeper than just the community," said Leonard.

But, for Ryse's executive director Kanwarpal Dhaliwal, this is at least a start

"We know there's a lot of underlying issues that are causing the violence that we need to address. And, it's also important that we're celebrating, sort of recognizing the inspiration and hope that a lot of young people still have," she said.

With four months left in the year, the number of homicides in Richmond is expected to rise to about 50. The highest murder rate was in 1994 when there were 160 killings reported.

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