Attendees learned about ways to curb the spread of violence among area children at Delta Sigma Theta Sorority, Inc.'s IMPACT Day of Service Free from Violence Block Party yesterday at the Boys & Girls Club at Freetown Village.
"They came here to talk about the different kinds of bullying and why people bully," said junior staff member DeMontae Reid. "Some of the children came out to get some information. The sorority usually comes to us every two weeks to run a program for the young men."
The event primarily featured discussion by a panel on the issue of violence perpetrated by children in schools and other areas. Panelists included Kenneth Barnes, founder of DC-based anti-gun violence organization ROOT Inc. whose son was shot by another young man in 2001, Radio One personality Butch McAdams, Arundel Middle School principal Shawn Ashworth, community advocate Triana Hayes and Jerrod Thompson, in-house suspension coordinator at Annapolis High School. The event was organized with assistance from IMPACT Day chair Rosalind Williams and Angela White, the program director at the Freetown Boys & Girls Club.
The panel included a focus on bullying in schools, a topic that panelists said was a significant issue in the area.
"The greatest impact I'm seeing as a principal is that kids are fearful to come to school," said Ashworth. "As a principal, it's sad to hear that kids don't want to come to school because someone has made their learning environment unsafe. You can't learn if you're scared to come to school. You can't learn if you're scared to walk in the hallway because you don't know who's scared to bump into you over a message on Facebook."
"If you get in a fight at my school, you get 10 days suspension for second-degree assault," said Thompson. "No questions asked."
Barnes said that he believed that youths needed to learn better ways of dealing with their problems than immediately resorting to violence.
"How do you fight someone over words? Why would you fight someone over words?" said Barnes. "Anything short of protecting your life isn't worth it. You can't let anyone define who you are."
The event was part of a variety of programs for youth organized by the sorority. After the panel discussion, Boys and Girls Club members bagged food from the Maryland Food Bank for needy families.
"We've designated IMPACT Day as a day to lift African-American young men, to shine a light on them and to do events in our local communities to assist them," said president Tonia Jones Powell of the North Arundel County Alumnae Chapter of Delta Sigma Theta. "This particular day was designated to focus on bullying and crime because the director of this facility, whom we partner with regularly, said that there's been an escalation of crime in this neighborhood and the surrounding schools, so we're trying to respond to that.
"We're trying to respond to the needs of the community that were identified by the Boys & Girls Club," added Powell, who also said that the chapter was recently struck personally by violence due to the January shooting death of chapter member Myra Cason in Glen Burnie.
The next sorority-supported event at the club will be a college tour for the older members taking place later this month.