It’s been almost trendy to talk about Ferguson’s young leaders lately, but youth leadership and community involvement is nothing new in the Ferguson area. For nearly four years, the Ferguson Youth Initiative has worked to connect teens and young adults with community events and opportunities.
The nonprofit organization serves as a “stopgap for community events that may be missing out on the teens and young people in the area,” said state Rep. Courtney Allen Curtis. Ferguson Youth Initiative also sponsors regular events and programs, including Spot 394, a roaming community center; earn-a-bike and earn-a-computer programs that help teach responsibility; a community service program that lets teens work off debt from fines; teen summits and teen festivals.
What Ferguson Youth Initiative needs now, though, are mentors.
“We’re looking for people with a good heart who are willing to give the young people the time of day, the resources and the things that they need so they can be successful,” said Curtis, a Ferguson Youth Initiative volunteer.
“I think that one of the main things that people can do is to get involved in the lives of young people right now,” said soul singer Brian Owens, who lives in Ferguson and is a Ferguson Youth Initiative mentor.
Owens has organized #HealFerguson, a concert Sunday afternoon. He said he hopes the concert will help residents, and he wants to recruit 100 mentors for the Ferguson Youth Initiative.
“I think music is the great equalizer,” he said. “I think music has a way of speaking to the deepest sense of us that we have in common, even though we may not have, on the outside, common struggles, on the inside I think we all have common struggles. I think music speaks to that part of us.”
Owens said the idea for a concert started several months ago; recent events in Ferguson, including the death of Michael Brown and the protests that followed, made it happen.
“Sunday’s event will definitely be a healing event for the community,” Curtis said. “The question is are we ready to heal and have we uncovered all of the problems and uncovered solutions as well to move forward.”
In addition to drawing attention to the Ferguson Youth Initiative and volunteer opportunities, Owens said the concert can help residents with the healing process.
“People are hopeful. People are definitely seeking healing and reconciliation,” Owens said. “There are people who are definitely seeking answers, and in the midst of seeking all that, we just want to provide a soundtrack that can give us a little perspective, give us a little hope.”
In addition to Owens, guests include Grammy winning producer J.R., Keb Mo sideman Mike Hicks, Adam Maness and members of the St. Louis Symphony, soprano Christine Brewer, Nao Yoshioka and Theresa Payne. Maness will debut an original piece commissioned for the event, “The Divides That Bind.”
“This is the first time I have ever performed in Ferguson, in my city, because I’m usually performing outside of my city and working and traveling,” Owens said. “But I think in God’s timing, everything has come to this place and this time to share.”
Where: Ferguson Heights Church of Christ parking lot, 1239 N. Elizabeth Ave., Ferguson
When: Sunday; lot opens at 5 p.m.; first performance begins at 5:30 p.m.
Ferguson Youth Initiative hopes to gain at least 100 mentors at the concert
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