LEXINGTON, Ky. (LEX 18) — The City of Lexington is working on violence prevention through a summer program that takes youth from their neighborhoods to unique experiences across town.
"It Takes a Village" summer youth program is the brainchild of Devine Carama, hip hop artist, community leader, and One Lexington director.
"When I got the new job as Director of One Lexington in the mayor's office, I learned that a lot of the work that they were doing previously was intervention work, which is great work and needed. But in my experience working within the community, you've got to have some preventative stuff as well. What things are we doing to reach out to young people before they get to the moment of a violent altercation or involved in things that leads to violent altercations," said Carama.
One Lexington was created in 2017 with the goal of coordinating all activities addressing violent crime inside city government and outside, with public and private partners.
"It Takes a Village" is held every Tuesday and Thursday during the summer. Attendance is capped at 30 participants. Carama says since they've started, they've maxed out every day.
This week's Tuesday session will focus on how artistic outlets can be a healing agent for personal trauma. The students visited Kingtucky Ent. recording studio in Lexington, where they made music and learned about hip hop.
"I know how important hip hop was for me. It saved my life and gave me purpose," said Carama. "I wouldn't be the Director of One Lexington if it wasn't for the platform that I built through music and hip hop. So to be able to share that knowledge with them, for them to be able to come to the biggest recording studio that we got in Lexington and learn how to record the behind-the-scenes stuff — some of them being brave enough to hop in a booth is an amazing thing. I think it's going to give them a voice to whatever they want to do in life, whether it's hip hop or not."
Students described the recording booth as a peaceful environment.
"I liked the feeling that I could do whatever I wanted. It was like a free space where I could just be myself," said Yasslin Keene.
Carama encouraged them to talk about real-life experiences and not to rely on lies. Tj Morton embraced that advice.
"It felt good, relaxing," said Morton. "I was talking about my championship game. We played basketball at Dunbar, and then I dropped thirty, and I got MVP, and we got the championship ring."
Leaders like Carama are working to put an end to the violence in the city. Lexington is on pace to smash the record it set a year ago for gun-related homicides, and local leaders like Carama are working on solutions.
Since January 2021, there have been 67 shootings in Lexington, according to police crime data. Twenty-nine of the shooting victims were 21 years old or younger.
"One thing I learned working with kids, there's this misconception that they don't want to be led. They just want to be out wild and doing their own thing, when really, it's the complete opposite. They like structure, they need structure. Really, it's a lack of structure and a lot of cases that leads to us losing our youth," said Carama.
He and his team are focused on relationship building through mentorship and meeting kids where they are.
"In the mornings, we may do a conflict resolution workshop. In an afternoon, we may take them to Malibu Jacks. In the morning, we may do some coding computer at the University of Kentucky. But in the afternoon, we may take them to the Sky Zone. So, it's a combination of mentoring, relationship building, mixed with building some parts of their character. Being that they may not be able to focus on that during the summer months and we hope that, getting them more engaged in what we're doing, keeps them out of the streets, keeps them out of situations that could lead to violent encounters," explained Carama.
He says they're also considering a school mentoring program as an extension of the summer program.
For more information, contact Devine Carama at (859) 280-8745 or firstname.lastname@example.org.