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Lisa Loving of The Skanner
Published: 07 January 2009

Imani Muhammad's annual event supporting young people affected by street violence is right around the corner – and couldn't come at a more critical time for local kids and their families.
The 3rd Annual Youth Summit is Feb. 7 at Portland State University Smith Memorial Union, 1825 SW Broadway, on the second floor.  All activities are free of charge.
This year's theme, "The Future is All About Y.O.U.th — Youth Organized & United to Help," underscores a strengthened agenda of bringing together teens and young adults who will be drawing up their own community development plan to present to elected officials and local leaders.
"What I want to see at the end of this youth summit is that I want to present an agenda to community leaders to adults that are from the youth," Muhammad says. "For example, if the youth desire a resource center where they learn how to interview for jobs and send out job applications, then we as adults should do all in our power to produce one that's maybe not in our community or at least enhance one that is already developed."
The daylong summit also features workshops, which so far include Mic Crenshaw on "Paranoia or Clairvoyance? A Practical and Metaphysical Assessment of the War on Your Life"; Desmond Spann on "Hip Hop Motivates: Staying Focused and Motivated for Success"; Karanja Crews on "Real or Deal — Conscious Rap"; and Xavier Burton, "History of Hip Hop."
The day ends with a Youth Talent Showcase at 6:30 p.m. with a vocal competition, dance style competition, and a "rap battle." Each participant receives a gift, with the first place winners in the voice and dance categories also earning gift cards, cds and more. The winner of the rap event receives studio time with Jus Family recordings and a live interview on KBOO Radio.
National recording artist Mic Crenshaw will be performing live.
Registration starts at 11 a.m. Workshops begin at 1 p.m., and will be held on the 2nd floor of the Smith Memorial Union. The talent showcase is in Hoffman Hall at 6:30 p.m.
The first Youth Summit was held in 2007, after the street killing almost exactly two years ago of 14-year-old Davonte Lightfoot, a Benson High School student and one of Muhammad's former pupils at Victory Middle School in North Portland.
As Youth Summit 09 prepares to open its doors, Portland is reeling from the third fatal youth shooting in four weeks, and a record number of call-outs by the Portland Police gang enforcement squad.
 "The initial inspiration was really my answer to the senseless, violent death of Davonte, and it was kind of my way of grieving," Muhammad said. "So I said, let's at least give the youth an opportunity to voice their opinions on the issues and what's going on and what they're really dealing with, and kind of help bridge the gap between the adults and the youth."
This year's Youth Summit is a collaboration between Muhammad's organization The Traveling Pillar, as well as the NAACP of Portland State University, Zulu Nation-Oregon Chapter, Youth Task Force of the Millions More Movement, and the Jus Family Records, Executive Branch Management.
"The event started with my desire to pull students in the community together to basically voice their opinions in a form where the adults parents and community leaders could sit down and listen," she said. "From that it developed into more of a workshop-style event, with entertainment — we added a concert last year where we had different local artists and youth artists perform."
 Muhammad says she wants this event to formalize into an institution that can continue throughout the year – and so her priority is to find solid financial backing for ongoing activities. "It's needed to develop any program to help the youth," she said.
City officials say they're renewing their focus on youth violence prevention efforts, but that the ground-level impact of the nationwide economic crisis means no additional funding for youth efforts is likely.
Muhammad believes that today's youth require a deep, communitywide focus, and they deserve it.
"I have the philosophy that there's nothing new under the sun, but I would have to say that one thing that they have on them is the pressure of media and Internet and advertisements," she says. "So they're not dealing with anything we all haven't gone through – I mean drugs are still around, suicide, homicide, unemployment – all of those are real and they've always affected almost every generation, but I would have to say media is so powerful on the youth generation now more than ever, that I think is what's keeping our youth from really grasping realistic goals and realistic ideas."
For more info visit www.youthsummit09.blogspot.com, email info@travelingpillar.com, or call 503-781-5313.

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