Miami has experienced a spike in shootings of and by young people in the opening months of 2016. But the organizers of Wednesday’s “Goals NOT Guns” summit, planned for weeks and held in Little Havana, could not have known just how timely it would be.
“I don’t have to tell you that just two days ago, two more youths lost their lives to this epidemic," Miami Commissioner Frank Carollo, who convened the event, said in his opening remarks. “One in Miami Gardens, and another in Little Havana, just a few blocks away from where we are today.”
The summit, co-hosted by Miami Dade College at the Historic Tower Theater, brought together elected officials, nonprofit leaders and pundits for a series of panel discussions on youth gun violence, each focused on themes like economic development and education.
Speakers stressed that advocacy on gun violence can’t be limited to the hardest-hit neighborhoods. “It must be also a Pinecrest, Coral Gables or a Sunny Isles Beach problem,” said Miami-Dade Schools Superintendent Alberto Carvalho. “If it isn’t, we’re not going to get anywhere.”
Carvalho stressed the importance of pre-school in boosting educational outcomes down the road, and made bold promises to use district partnerships to expand mentoring for at-risk youth. “We’re going to be deliberate, not just assigning a couple of dozen mentors to these kids. We need to do it by the thousands,” he said.
He also offered some advice to the public on how to respond to such public promises: Push for accountability. “If I’m not doing my job, get rid of me,” Carvalho said.
Miami Herald Editorial Page Editor Nancy Ancrum turned her attention to the Statehouse: “Our lawmakers in Tallahassee have failed us,” she said. This year, she said, Florida legislators refused to pass a bill that would expand witness protection programs in communities affected by gun violence, “for people who are just too scared to tell what they know."
“And they do know who’s doing the shooting,” she added, “and they do know who’s doing the killing, and who’s supplying the guns.”
One group whose voices were not included in this conversation on youth violence: young people themselves. All 27 listed panel participants are well into adulthood.