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Know your rights! Mid-South Peace & Justice seminar hits home

by Johnesha Harris, Special to The New Tri-State Defender Newspaper

It is important that youth know how to safely navigate life experiences and on Monday a group of youth at Douglas Community Center got some lessons on how to do just that.

The Mid-South Peace & Justice Center (MSPJC) presented its “Know Your Rights” seminar at the community center, using interactive skits to educate young people on knowing their rights and how to communicate more effectively.

The idea came from the MSPJC’s Homeless Organizing for Power and Equality (HOPE) initiative, which is designed to help the homeless in the Mid-South seek help, shelter and guidance in their quest for a new life.

“We developed this program to tailor the youth,” said Brad Watkins, MSPJC executive director. “The seminar is a mix of improvisational skits and discussion about real-life situations that many youth today have faced.

“We want to do the Know Your Rights workshops to build a relationship with youth and get the information into the hands of the person that other young people are going to talk to, which is other young people.”

Community centers such as Douglas are part of the Memphis Park Commission project that offers summer camp spots to children. Morris Robinson, summer camp director for Douglas, planned Monday’s event for his campers to help expose them to helpful information.

“We have about 60 campers,” Robinson said. “We try to partner with many other organizations, like Mid-South Peace & Justice, as much as we possibly can to bring more light and understanding to the climate.”

After the morning program, students at Douglas were given booklets to take to their families to further the discussions.

“We really do try to have mixed demographics of kids,” said Faith Pollan, MSPJCorganizing coordinator. “We want them to see where other kids are coming from and their life experiences. We don’t want these programs we do to be polarizing.”

Instead, Pollan wants the participants to see that they’re like the others in the room and to realize they have potential and opportunity to achieve their goals.

Pollan said the youth in the audience must understand that while people tell them they are the future, the future is now. She said younger generations can make a difference in many ways when they use their surroundings.

The Mid-South Peace and Justice Center also conducts seminars on sexual assault, consent and public service. The center works with juvenile detention groups and troubled youth as well as youth looking to fulfill community service hours.

Watkins said the MSPJC team is expanding the way it communicates with students and working toward getting students and juveniles involved in their communities. In doing so, their efforts can help them complete the community service hours they need and also help them find purpose in their surroundings.

The center will soon be partnering with Kingsbury High School. Watkins said he is excited to work with a diverse school, while finding new ways to reach young adults through the center’s curriculum.

(For more information on Mid-South Peace and Justice Center, visit www.midsouthpeace.org.)

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