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The Baton Rouge Youth Coalition’s main building is decorated with a mural in Baton Rouge, La., on Saturday, April 13, 2024.

We live in a world with glaring inequities. These inequities are evident regarding access to housing, afterschool programs, fresh foods and updated community centers. The lack of equity in these areas creates a ripple effect that can lead to a host of societal problems, including violence.

On Gus Young Avenue, there used to be thriving hubs of activity like the National Youth Sports Program, the Boys & Girls Club and the community pool at Eden Park. The once lively playgrounds, schools and sports facilities now lie abandoned, desolate and forgotten.

As a result, many youth will never have the opportunity to engage in age-appropriate activities that enable them to learn basic skills or enjoy their childhood. Instead, they are forced to grow up too fast, taking on adult responsibilities to make ends meet or to fulfill their basic needs.

When our communities suffer from violence, it is because of the failures of systems and institutions that date back to our country's founding that have deprioritized, devalued and deprived our neighborhoods of the resources and support they need to thrive.

We must work together to address the root causes of violence and rewrite the rules that have left our youth and communities behind. We need local, state and federal government leaders to work with us, not against us. Our communities need more support and funding for community violence intervention programs.

Law enforcement agencies have traditionally been responsible for maintaining public safety. However, with the advent of programs, this narrative is transforming. Program workers are trained experts who draw from their lived experiences to reduce the spread of violence in their community by engaging those at the highest risk of being injured or producing violence. These workers also ensure safer communities by producing healthier outcomes through high-risk interventions, assertive outreach, mentoring, case management, victim services and other evidence-based practices.

SATERIA TATE-ALEXANDER

Baton Rouge

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