Despite the brief appearance of snow flurries Nov. 6, south Pittsburgh children took to the streets of their community as part of the “Dare to Dream” Youth Summit. The march hosted by the South Pittsburgh Coalition for Peace wound around Pittsburgh’s Mt. Oliver, Beltzhoover, Allentown and Knoxville neighborhoods, drawing more youth to its ranks as it went.

DARE TO DREAM—Children, joined by parents and community leaders, brave the cold to march for their dreams. (Photo by J.L. Martello)

“We want you to be the most wonderful adults you can be,” said Stacey Randolph, project manager for SPCP, in her opening remarks to the children. “We want you to be prosperous.”

Dressed in the attire of their aspired profession, the children participated in a day-long summit that also included inspiring and shocking speeches, musical performances and spiritual upliftment. The goal of the program, put on at Lighthouse Cathedral, was to guide the children away from a life involved in street violence.

“The South Pittsburgh Coalition for Peace came about in 2004 as a result of a shooting that occurred outside Carrick High School,” Randolph said. “We came together to do something to rid our streets of all this hatred, all this violence.”

Another component of the program involved recognizing community leaders who have played a key role in supporting SPCP. Among them was Ed Gainey, coordinator of economic development for the mayor’s office, who received the Outstand Community Servant Award.

“We ought to be glad to have this man in this office,” Randolph said. “He is for the people and he will continue to do work for the people, with the people.”

Gainey presented SPCP with a proclamation from the mayor’s office in recognition of the summit. He also took time to deliver inspiring words to the youth in the audience.

“Greatness is not birthed in the light. It’s birthed in the darkness. We have to teach the next generation that pressure, rejection and everything will come, but it’s what makes you,” Gainey said. “Tough times are going to come, but the reality is it only comes to make you the man or woman you’re going to be.”

Another honoree was Kenneth Jordan who received the Youth Advocate Award. Through his work with violence prevention and intervention organizations like One Vision One Life, Jordan is a visible presence in south Pittsburgh, frequently mediating youth conflicts.

“My heart goes out to the mothers who lost their sons because I lost my brother to this,” Jordan said. “I come from where you come from. The same people who were trying to help me that I was running away from, I came back to. The only way you can stop dreaming is when you’re dead. If you need help, don’t be afraid to reach out.”

The children were also presented with horrific and gripping stories from mothers who lost their sons to Black on Black violence, like that of Debra Germany, executive director of Divine Intervention Ministries, who frequently tells her story at anti-violence gatherings. They also heard from Carla Carter, whose son was stabbed five times yet refused to tell police who stabbed him, and was later shot and killed.

“The same guy who stabbed him shot him in the back and killed him,” Carter said. “This is devastating for parents to go through. When my son was 18, he started hanging out in the streets. I always told him to stop hanging in the streets. I’m here to tell you, listen to the people who care about you.”

SPCP is funded through the Birmingham Foundation, a private community-focused foundation dedicated to health-related and human services grant making in south Pittsburgh.

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