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Organizers seek teen input for Million Youth March

By Elisabeth Arriero
earriero@charlotteobserver.com

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    The next planning meeting for the Million Youth March of Charlotte will be at 7 p.m. Monday at the McCrorey YMCA, 3801 Beatties Ford Road. For more information, follow the movement on Twitter at @mYOUTHmoc or email mymocnc@yahoo.com.



DeVondia Roseborough remembers watching the news in July and hearing about the shooting on Regan Drive.

She prayed that it was not someone she knew. But when someone texted her asking whether her cousin Davion Funderburk had been killed, and she couldn’t get in touch with Funderburk’s mom, she had a sinking feeling.

“I headed to the emergency room and found his mom there and everybody’s heads were down and everyone was crying,” she said.

Funderburk, 22, and three of his friends were shot while sitting in a car on Regan Drive. He and Inna Gonzalez, 23, died.

In the wake of the shooting, Roseborough and other Charlotte residents concerned about youth violence are organizing a walk to raise awareness about youth violence and how to prevent more deaths. And they’re looking for input from the public during a Monday meeting.

Mario Black, a behavior specialist with Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools, was motivated to create the event after Funderburk died. Funderburk was related to a cousin of Black’s.

“This whole thing was birthed out of a tragic shooting,” he said. “I see the impact that tragedies like these have and I think it’s time to take a stance.”

Black brainstormed with friend Shawnta Clark and they decided to organize the march, spreading the word mostly through Facebook and Twitter. They called it the Million Youth March.

About 30 people met in August to discuss the project, which will be modeled after the Million Man March, an event held in October 1995 in Washington, D.C., to raise awareness about African-American civil rights.

Although a date hasn’t been set, organizers plan to invite churches, city officials and job recruiters to attend the march.

Black said he’d also like to see marching bands from area high schools collaborate in a unity band during the march.

He said he hopes he’s hopeful that more youths will attend the second planning meeting to provide feedback. After all, the march aims to prevent violence for those between ages 13 and 25, Black said.

National data show that homicide is the second leading cause of death for people ages 15 to 24, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. And in 2010, 4,828 people ages 10 to 24 were victims of homicide.

Charlotte Mecklenburg police said there have been 35 homicides this year, 14 of which involved victims 25 and younger.

‘We need to stand together’

Dasia Grier, a Harding High School senior, said she’s baffled by the frequency of violence among youths.

“I just wonder why it always has to be about violence when we go out,” she said. “A lot of times when I go out with high schoolers, something always ends up wrong.”

Grier said she believes a lot of youth violence stems from internal conflict.

“I think it comes from a lot of anger inside of people, either from the home or stress from school,” she said. “I think there’s an underlying issue within themselves and they feel like they’ve got to lash out and turn to violence but that shouldn’t be the case.”

Deiontre Oliver, a senior at Hopewell High School, said he also is frequently discouraged by youth violence. “We’re out here killing each other. It’s just not cool.”

Black said that since values are created in the home, parents can be the first defense in preventing youth violence.

“It all starts in the home,” he said. “Kids need a strong support system and guidance”

He noted that some kids act out to get attention because negative attention is better than none at all.

Black also emphasized the importance of after-school programs. programming.

“They motivate kids,” he said. “There are not that many programs these days to motivate kids to be successful in school. There’s a serious lack of guidance.”

Oliver said his involvement with football has helped him stay out of trouble throughout school. “That’s something to keep me out of trouble and keep my mind on other things,” he said.

Roseborough said she hopes the upcoming march can help prevent such senseless crimes as her cousin’s death from happening again.

“We need to stand together and do something to impact young people’s lives so they don’t lash out with the anger,” she said. “We need to make sure that individuals are talking to their kids and letting their children know they can come to them so that whatever they’re going through, they can feel OK with sharing it.”

Arriero: 704-358-5945; Twitter: @earriero
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