“Summer of Peace,” an anti-gun violence conference and rally, focused on attempts to quell violence among Atlanta area youth. More than 500 students, celebrities and local officials gathered to advocate for violence prevention.
The private conference took place on May 5 at Clark Atlanta University’s Panther Stadium. The event was facilitated with hopes to reduce the occurrence of acts of violence among teens, in anticipation of the upcoming summer break for Atlanta-area high school students.
Five hundred students from local high schools participated in a college and summer job fair, and a panel discussion involving rappers 21 Savage and Yung Joc, journalist Neima Abdulahi, and Big Dave’s Cheesesteaks’ owner Derrick Hayes, among others.
During the panel, Atlanta-based rapper 21 Savage shared advice he wished he knew when he was younger. “Watch who you hang with, watch what you get into and stay focused,” he said.
For Fulton County judge Kenya Johnson and Solicitor General Keith Gammage, teens are more receptive to messages from influences like 21 Savage.
“I think it’s super powerful today to have 21 Savage, because not a lot of artists come back at the rate that he comes back,” Abdulahi said. “500 students are seeing him today, and…their lives are going to change for the better.”
Abdulahi, along with the other panelists, urged adults to advocate for mental health among teens by listening to their concerns and encouraging teens to ask for help.
Tiana Evans, a 10th grader at Benjamin Banneker High School, felt the peace conference was highly effective in its efforts to communicate ways students can have a peaceful summer. “It’s a lot of people showing great efforts to change the world and making more peace and creating calmer environments,” Evans said.
For Officer Phillip Garrett, background investigator and recruiter for the City of Atlanta Police Department, community involvement encourages a decrease in teen crimes and arrests. “We need to talk to the students, try to be a mentor and let them know that they are special, that they are important and appreciated,” he said. “If we’re able to show more affection and attention before the police actually get involved, we might be able to save some kids.”
The event also included music performances by local artists and a student rap contest with cash prizes. Participating students won over $500 each, with contributions from 21 Savage and Pinky Cole, owner of the popular Slutty Vegan restaurant. In addition, Bey and Associates awarded $12,000 scholarships to two students from Solid Rock Academy. The students were rewarded for their participation in a campaign that asked students to create 60-second anti-gun violence video.
In April, Judge Johnson, Solicitor General Gammage and Sheriff Pat Labat announced the conference and peace initiative. As an annual conference, it aims to advocate for 100 days of peace among teens during summer.
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