Eveul Exil recites a spoken word piece during Urgent, Inc.’s “Open Mic Youth Townhall,” held Friday, March 24.


Staff Report

MIAMI – Last Friday, nearly 40 youth, ages 14-18, from Urgent, Inc.’s Rites of Passage Youth Media Project and Film, Arts, Coding & Entrepreneurship (FACE) programs participated in a ‘Day of Dialogue’ hosted by the University of Miami’s School of Education. Students from the Overtown Children and Youth Coalition’s Youth Commission were also in attendance.

During the day, Urgent, Inc. hosted a breakout session that was an “Open Mic Town Hall for Youth.” The event is a continued effort to elevate youth voices and empower them to share ideas around improving opportunities in the community with the support of local professionals that influence systems and institutions.

Prior youth town halls addressed education, employment, homelessness and community safety. Therefore, organizers from the Challenging Racism & Empowering Communities through Ethnocultural Research (CRECER) team at UM decided to address race relations head on as a result of what is happening in the country – the rise of blatant discrimination, harassment and threats to personal safety based on race, religion and residency.

“Yes, these conversations are uncomfortable, but as active and engaged citizens we must take the time to learn, understand and then find solutions for the life issues that are the hard problem,” said Saliha Nelson, Vice President of Urgent, Inc. “Involving young people is imperative. They both see, experience and are impacted by today’s race relations and need to be invited to the table to craft solutions.”

Mistress of Ceremony Jill Tracey ‘opened the mic’ with a welcome and thank you.

“I’m so proud to be part of an activity where I see young people taking responsibility for their community,” Tracey said.

Special guests were invited to share their expertise during a panel discussion about race and gender inequality.

“You have to be brave today to talk about racism in a real context to make sure it’s not about people’s feelings, it’s about people’s healing. We’re not as diverse as we think,” explained community leader Brother Lyle Grandison of the Circle of Brotherhood.

He was joined on the panel by Dr. Marcus Bright from Miami Dade Public Schools Office of Educational Equity, Access and Diversity; Eugenia Russell, Program Manager at FIU’s Education Effect; Cornell Crews, Executive Director of the Community Reinvestment Alliance of South Florida; Janeen Jones, Community Outreach Representative from the Office of the State Attorney; Rob Collins, Esq., Education & Outreach Coordinator of HOPE; and Clevell Brown, MDEAT’s Training and Outreach Specialist.

Youth poets Eveul Exil and Angene Bien-Aime both gave powerful spoken word performances about how they see America and youth directors featured short films “Black & White” and “Just Different.”

Breakout discussions led by the special guests gave youth a chance to drill down on the subject and come up with ways they can make a difference as an individual and in a group.

The small group discussions were followed-up with reflections facilitated by the FACE program manager, Terrance Cribbs-Lorrant.

One teen, Ishmael, commented, “What they are trying to get us to understand is that we need to make a change within ourselves and as a community as a whole.”

The day concluded with a song led by the Multicultural Education Center. The song was a vocal round intended to show youth that unified voices produce beautiful music.