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'They feel like we've already created the story for them.' Lexingtonians urge community to look past preconceptions on violence

Josh James

The panel included familiar faces, from Police Chief Lawrence Weathers to One Lexington anti-violence program coordinator Devine Carama, but it was a lineup of passionate speakers who gradually took the reins at the 90-minute meeting.

The audience of about 50 heard from parents, teachers, and a therapist -- who painted a picture of a growing community, tapped out from COVID and unsure how best to reach young people struggling to locate a source of hope and connection in challenging times.

One theme of the night: making sure those at risk don't feel like the community has written them off.

"We have to ask them more," one speaker said, referring to those who feel caught up in a lifestyle foisted upon them. "We have to stop seeing them as criminals all the time because some of these kids just want help, but they feel like we've already kind of created the story for them and they don't want to talk to us."

Speakers had a number of responses and suggestions, ranging from pleas not to fall into easy preconceptions about the perpetrators and victims of crime to a summit meant to coordinate a single citywide response to the violence.

The forum was one of an increasing number of gatherings centered on how to reduce violence in Lexington, as the city grapples with the prospect of another record-breaking year of homicides.

Josh James fell in love with college radio at Western Kentucky University's student station, New Rock 92 (now Revolution 91.7). After working as a DJ and program director, he knew he wanted to come home to Lexington and try his hand in public radio.