Building and Strengthening Neighborhoods and People

York Road Alternatives for Youth (YAY): A Peaceful Response for a Better Neighborhood

Since 2000, GHCC’s Youth Programs increased the availability of positive activities for Greater Homewood youth by building partnerships between schools, communities, and youth service providers to foster an integrated approach to meeting youth needs.  GHCC’s established repuation as an intermediary enables our program to serve as a networking resource to promote common solutions.  Our current range of programming works with local youth providers and institutional partners to facilitate cross-sector collaborations and coordinated efforts to maximize and expand the reach of programs for underserved youth. To learn more about our youth programs, click here.

Submitted by Rev. Heber Brown, III

As the Summer of 2009 prepared to make its entry, the Govans community in north Baltimore experienced a rash of violence that unsettled many of our residents and neighbors.  Govans isn’t regularly featured on the nightly news for incidents of crime, but last summer was a reminder that no community is immune to acts of violence.  

On May 31, 2009, Joseph Woah-Tee, long-time Baltimore resident and owner of the Gaimei Nangbn Multi-Purpose Neighborhood Center in the 4300 Block of York Road, was killed in a robbery attempt at his Center.

A little more than two weeks later and less than one mile away, a young man in his late teens was killed in what the Baltimore Sun describes as a raucous “street fight between several people.”  The young man was stabbed and died about an hour later at an area hospital.

A couple of shootings occurred on the Alameda and Old York Road in July 2009, and two months later on September 11, a drive-by shooting occurred at York Road and Radnor Avenue.  Eight gunshots sliced through the air of that night and when the smoke cleared, two bodies were laying on the ground in the front yard of Patrice Brown – my mother.  Bullet casings decorated the cement and bullet holes pierced the walls of the American Friends Service Committee Building across the street.

In response to these shootings, a coalition of community members from all walks life gathered themselves for Prayer and Peace Vigils.  People of Faith and Conscience – from local churches, organizations, and the surrounding community – gathered to ensure that violence would not get the last word in the communities along the York Road Corridor.  
They participated in public actions for peace on two occasions: once on Sunday, July 19, 2009, beginning at the intersection of York Road and Woodbourne, and again on Sunday, October 11, 2009, beginning at the American Friends Service Committee and continuing along Radnor Avenue.

Building on the momentum of two well-supported public actions, conversations ensued about what proactive steps could be taken to prevent violence.  A diverse coalition and subset of the larger group began to meet, eventually coming up with the idea to have churches make their buildings and resources available on a weekly rotational basis to youth recreation on Friday nights calling the initiative: Y.A.Y.! It’s Friday.

In January 2010, this effort began with Pleasant Hope Baptist Church and in subsequent weeks moved to Govans Presbyterian Church and St. Mary’s of the Assumption Catholic Church – all churches along York Road.  A few months later, Holy Comforter Lutheran Church signed on as a host site as well.  Youth from the churches and the community have come together not only to play board games, cards, and Nintendo Wii, but have also shared in a review of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.’s “I Have A Dream” speech, had an Open Mic Night to share their talents, and had a forum on education equality in Baltimore City.

The gracious donations of the participating churches, partner organizations, and supportive neighbors have given Y.A.Y.! It’s Friday a promising start.  

As Summer 2010 is rapidly approaching, Y.A.Y. is preparing to ramp up our efforts, recruit more host sites/partner organizations, and reach a broader segment of community youth.

If you are able to lend your support to this effort with space, donations, time, or in some other way, we would love to hear from you!  Please contact Gary Gillespie as (443) 847-8989.