YOUTH EMPOWERMENT CONFERENCE 2007 (1/21/07)
Every year around this time the Department of Children Youth and their Families (DCYF) and the Mayor's Office sponsor the Youth Empowerment Conference. I attend this conference last year and chose to attend the conference this time too at the Bill Graham Auditorium.
The program chose to start the conference with Aztec dancers performing ceremonial dances and a tradition blessing to set the tone to this important youth conference in San Francisco. This group has been performing for 25 years and is well known as Danza Xitlalli.
WuShu was next, performing martial moves - some by the youth and joined by the adult members of the group. This was followed by the Pacific Islander Youth Alliance (PIYA) performing a couple of traditional dance and finishing of with the Haka a warrior dance.
The key note speech was given by Talivaimaila Amatanga Seumanutafa we all call her affectionately " Tali ". While encouraging the youth to fight for what is right and bring about peace she narrated a couple of incidents pointing to lack of public safety all over San Francisco. She asked the audience how many felt they lived in a Safe Neighborhood? When a handful hands went up the message was sent to all present - we all need to work to bring about peace and eradicate gang and other adverse impacts that encourage crime.
The film created by Conscious Youth Media Crew focused on Quality of Life is our neighborhoods. Youth spoke about bettering themselves by going to school and learning skills. Others spoke of being surrounded by crime and adverse impacts and how they had to fight these forces to seek better opportunities. It is not often that we hear from the mouths of babes and from youth that can speak their mind and we heard it in this short film. Judging from the applause - this film was much appreciated by the youth and adults attending this youth empowerment conference? Darrick Smith moderated the Panel Discussion that followed the film. Darrick is the founder director of Trying to Uplift My Folks a youth empowerment program in Oakland, California. Since 1999 he has saved and impacted hundreds of lives.
Rudy Corpuz and Harry Tepula from United Plaza were on the panel. So was Lateefah Simon who works for the SF District Attorney and serves as the Director of Reentry Services. Shadi Elkarra serves on the San Francisco Youth Commission and so is Iqra Anjum who serves on the Youth Commission and both tried to do justice on this panel. Jane Kim now serves on the Board of Education and for the last six years served as the youth program director at the China Community Development Center. A late addition to the panel was Marquez Gray from Chalk.
The City and County of San Francisco has a budget of over $5.4 billion dollars. This is a lot of money and any way we look at our city budget we fail to see sufficient money invested in our youth. And for sure some money to offer professional services for the betterment of our youth.
It has become a cliché to state again and again that our youth are our future leaders. However what we see here and hear here is just the sound of the word "cliché". More families and children are leaving our City of San Francisco and more and more this City is becoming well known as an abode for singles - be they male or female living as companions, better known as the significant other with fewer children.
This conference did not impress me for the simple reason it is time we invest in speakers that are experts who can give a holistic picture of what really is happening to our City of San Francisco. This is not a "dance event" or an event or conference where some youth gather and the topic is addressed in a haphazard manner.
Panel discussions have become a routine method of trying to represent some groups. Then, some one throws some questions most of the questions I heard did not capture what is really happening in San Francisco and which the Mayor and his cronies have failed to address. I did not see the Mayor at this conference. I did not see any Department Head, I did not see anyone that matters when it comes to giving the youth funding and see to their welfare. I did not see a single Board of Supervisor? Is this done by design?
As I have stated families and children are leaving our City of San Francisco in droves. Our Public schools have poor enrollment and I have visited our Public School to study this adverse impact. One can just glance at the photographs in the hall ways - for example Mission High School is one good example that was an abode of families.
One has just to study the demography of the Mission today and you will notice children and families are not in abundance. Singles are many and many of them are not youth they are adults.
Another important factor that has adversely impacted Quality of Life is the sale of illegal drugs, crime, shootings and killings. Our City has chosen not to empower the communities with Community Policing and has failed to protect the interests of our children. Our Mayor has paid lip service and lip service can make sounds but nothing beyond that. There are those that talk the talk and very few that walk the walk.
Twenty five percent of the youth that are found in our City of San Francisco live in the Southeast Sector. The Bayview Hunters Point, Visitation Valley, Portola District, and Excelsior form this area. A glance at this area and the amount spent on the youth is pathetic.
This area is heavily taxed by the City in terms of property tax, business tax, sale tax, and other taxes that go into the General Fund linked to permits and so on. This City has failed to show us how much money it takes in and how much money has been invested in the Southeast Sector over all these years. I asked this question on the City Controller a couple of times but have yet to receive an answer.
These are some of the topics above that I have pointed out that should have been discussed by this Youth Empowerment Conference 2007. Emancipate yourselves from mental slavery, none but ourselves can free our minds" was touted at this conference - words chanted by Bob Marley. We cannot emancipate less free ourselves, even less understand the issues if we do not have good education. As the years go by - the education meted out is inferior especially the education offered to our youth in Public Schools. Many of our youth have no books and others lack the basic amenities and facilities conducive to good education.
This conference on youth empowerment must come to grips with reality and involve private input in terms of qualified experts on health, safety, education, housing, youth issues and long term sound careers.
Graduates churned by Public School do not give our youth an opportunity to seek good job after graduation less enter college and even schools that offer short term certification find the products from our Public School lacking in skills and knowledge that most Public Schools in other States have no problem attaining.
Our Board of Supervisors does not want to hear the true facts and if one of them had been at this conference they could have sensed the pathetic state of affairs and services offered to our youth in San Francisco.
How can you empower the youth if you do not have something very powerful to offer them? How can anyone say they love our youth when in terms of facts and knowledge we offer them the same old mundane stuff? Has anyone heard about motivational speakers? Has anyone heard about mentoring and offering solutions in a professional manner?
I was happy to meet many youth and check out the organizational abilities of several folks that could have done better. It would be nice to find out how much was spent on this conference? If money is a problem then it is time we improve this conference with private investment, input, and professional organization.
The Panel Discussion.
Tali the keynote speaker.
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