Yesterday, we had the privilege of attending the Latanya & the Youth of Englewood Challenging Youth Against Violence registration at Ogden Park. We were very interested in learning more about the organization. We caught up with Latanya Johnson, founder & creator and here’s what she had to say:
“I am Latanya Johnson, and I have an organization called Latanya & the Youth of Englewood Challenging Youth Against Violence: Can You Hear Us. This organization represents the youth in Englewood, it helps keep the youth off the street, and out of harm’s way due to the violence we have in our community. It was (created) to prevent the kids from being on the street, on the corners having nothing to do after school and keep them happy.”
This past summer, Latanya has taken the youth to participate in parades, took trips to the library, museum and etc. “We’ve had donations from people, we had the radio station, WVON 1690…I was interviewed on there and they came out to bring the kids lunch, and had a (discussion) with them, took pictures and things. Alderman JoAnn Thompson of the 16th Ward was also great. She sponsored our t-shirts, because we do have our own t-shirts with our logo. She has sent us on different trips; she has given us different things for the kids to have something to do, to keep the kids occupied.”
With school back in session, Latanya is constantly thinking of additional ideas for the youth to participate in after school. Currently, Latanya is putting together a fashion show for males and females between the ages of 5-12, and 13-18. “I feel like, if they look good, they’ll feel good. They would want to do this; we all want to rip the runway.”
Over the past few years, Chicago has been known as the “murder capital” due to the increasing amount of deaths that have occurred throughout the city. Several of those deaths either come from the youth or the youth have become victims of violence. “It started back in 2012…you get tired of the news; you get tired of hearing how our youth are losing their lives every day. Every day it’s a kid shot, raped, and you get tired of hearing that. So I’m like, maybe I’ll stick my neck out a little and see what would happen. So I petitioned Alderman JoAnn Thompson of the 16th Ward, to do a march in the Englewood community and I presented her with this book and she didn’t ask any questions, she just said okay, come to the meetings and we can go from there. We met for a few weeks, and she put together a youth summit which was held inside of Kennedy King College, where I had the Cook County prisoners, also at that time, Derrick Rose had the leg injury, so he wasn’t able to come out but someone came out for him and brought a big card out. Barbara Bates, the fashion designer spoke and told all the seniors that she would make all their dresses and tuxes for prom. That was good…it was great. I also spoke. The youth summit was basically about job awareness, readiness, how to fill out an application, how to dress for success and different educational things.” Unfortunately, many of the youth weren’t able to obtain jobs although many were told that they were after successfully completing their applications online. From that day forward, after seeing the disappointment in many of the youth’s face, Latanya knew it was time to make a change.
After a year of properly collecting her full thoughts, she started the Latanya & the Youth of Englewood Challenging Youth Against Violence: Can You Hear Us. “Basically, it’s stating these kids want to live. They want to see their next birthday, they want be able to play outside. Every time they look up, they don’t want have to run in the house, they don’t want to have to stay in the house all the time.” Latanya has literally walked house to house recruiting youth within the Englewood community and is on the mission of expanding the local organization into an international organization.
If you’re interested in being a part of Latanya & the Youth Englewood Challenging Youth Against Violence, go to http://youthintheenglewood.webs.com/ or email Latanya Johnson herself at Johnson_marie19@yahoo.com and she also can be reached at (312) 983-2855. Be sure to follow Latanya & the Youth Englewood Challenging Youth Against Violence on Twitter @englewood5. Also, keep in mind, all donations will be greatly appreciated and would definitely benefit the youth.
Here’s a few pictures of Latanya & the Youth Englewood Challenging Youth Against Violence: Can You Hear Us: