KINGFIELD — A diverse group of Kingfield neighborhood youth is breaking barriers and battling bigotry with a program to unite the community.
Participants range in age from 13 to 18 and have been meeting biweekly since June to work on what will be the culmination of the program: a culture clash event in October.
“One of the things that this group is doing, that I think is historical work, [is] they are trying to figure out how they bring teenagers and other young people together from different socio-economic backgrounds,” said Kyle Rucker, executive director of nonprofit youth organization Project Footsteps, which is leading the effort. “They talk about the dividing lines.”
Rucker said he got lucky with the socio-economic diversity of the group. “It was great to watch them kind of come together,” he said. “The first few times that they met as a group it was interesting, because, yeah, certain kids hang out with certain kids because certain kids live in certain areas, and for them to all come together on one note is just remarkable.”
The group hopes to attract nationally known hip-hop artist Brother Ali as a headliner of the event, as well as securing a spoken word performance. Chipotle, radio station B96 and television’s Fox9 are potential sponsors. The youth group will also take part in the performance.
Rucker said the event will “really do something that’s going to not only affect the community but … [also] inspire adults to believe that change is possible through young people.”
At a meeting in late August, the group sat down to prepare a mission statement for the event — forcing them to discuss what the group was doing, and what the group members meant to one another.
“Once you go past [35th Street], it’s like a wreck,” said group member and soon-to-be high school freshman Alyssa White, exemplifying the invisible lines that prevent some from connecting with the community.
Participant Avery Harris, 15, said of the 50 neighbors in her townhome complex, she only knows about five personally. “A lot of times neighbors don’t talk to each other,” Harris said.
Kim Randle, mother to 17-year-old participant Jasmine, said the project is a great way to get a fresh perspective on the community.
“You need their ideas instead of thinking as an adult,” Randle said.
“People in power love power,” Rucker said. “These kids have figured out that they’re powerful beyond measure, and it’s a beautiful sight.”
The program first attracted the participants with a small stipend, but Rucker said that money is far from the group members’ minds at this point.
“As they’ve gotten down the yellow brick road a little bit further, it’s interesting,” he said. “We start to see their motives are a little bit different and they’re becoming addicted to being leaders.”
Southwest-based Project Footsteps, formerly known as Project Legos, has organized youth activities throughout the Twin Cities for five years.