Brandon Warren is an 18-year old from Indianapolis who became an anti-violence activist after he lost a friend. He was recently recognized as one of the nation’s top youth volunteers. Indiana Public Broadcasting’s Jill Sheridan recently sat down with Warren to talk about the root causes of youth violence ahead of the second annual peace walk for his group We LIVE Indy.
Sheridan: You became involved in the youth violence effort, after a personal story.
Warren: Yea, May of 2017 when a lost a friend, a classmate of mine, and a teammate of mine by the name of Dijon Anderson, I was motivated to become active in the community. I wanted to do something that created unity throughout the city and a peace walk was the first thing that came to mind. We’re just trying to keep that same message and build that on top of the message of youth violence in urban communities.
We realize this isn’t just about school shootings or urban community shootings this about all youth violence as a whole from suicide to drug overdose and everything. We really just want to be vocal teenagers and that’s what we’re just trying to be, to speak up about violence issues.
Sheridan: Those issues can be so complicated and so deep rooted. With your personal experience, where did it go wrong at your high school that something like this happened.
Warren: The big thing was, that I feel like shootings like this happen are because of the relationships that the victim or the student may have. One example is teacher student relationships, I feel that is so powerful. Imagine if every teenager felt that they had someone behind them to support, imagine if every teenager had that influence that was constantly in their ear telling them right from wrong.
With my friend, his mother speaks up on it all the time, she was a single mother and she was working nights at the time and it was really hard for her to be that influence in her son’s ear, especially as he was a senior in high school and just with the wrong crowd at the wrong time. That easily could have been guided a different direction.
Sheridan: Indianapolis headed for another record year of violence and we so often hear, it’s a 14- year old, it’s a 15-year old.
Warren: I feel like I’m not the only teenager that’s become numb to this. When I have the feeling I’ve become so numb to it and used to it, it’s hard to show emotions because I feel there’s no progress when you feel that way. But, there’s another side of me that tells me that when we do peace march, when we speak up on the issues, when we go to news interviews, when we are vocal, that’s a small step forward.
Sheridan: The incident in Noblesville and the reality that this can happen anywhere.
Warren: Man, should we focus on this? Should we focus on mental health, should we focus on getting kids more resources, should we focus on finding out where they are getting the guns? So many different things, but I feel like the pillar of them all is actually talking to these kids. A lot of the kids aren’t going to be vocal unless you come to them.
Sheridan: How did the walk go last year?
Warren: Man it was great, it was a hot day but it was so powerful. One of the most powerful things was hearing Mayor [Joe] Hogsett speak, Congressman Andre Carson and really just the victimized families speak. Walking down Keystone [Avenue] and having the officers block off part of the street while cars are still able to drive by and honk their horns and recognize us.
But honestly, the most influential thing to me was of the walk last year that will happen this year, when we stopped in front of the juvenile center on 25th and Keystone. We had a real quick visual prayer word because I want the kids to know inside that no matter what they’re inside for, they have a second or a third, or however many opportunities they have to get right and be with us eventually down the line.
The peace walk is Saturday, Aug.11 at 11 a.m. It starts and ends at Washington Park in Indianapolis.