Atlanta, GA

Atlanta Mayor Dickens hosts Next Level Boys Academy for forum on gun violence

The Revolutionary Report

Atlanta Mayor Andre Dickens opened the doors of Atlanta City Hall to the Next Level Boys Academy for a candid conversation about gun violence in and around the Metro Atlanta area. The forum took place on Saturday, February 05, 2022 at 9am, and was open to the community-at-large. Mayor Dickens sought to have the conversation surrounding the recent uptick in gun violence, following the tragic murder of 6 month-old Matthew Grayson Fleming-Gray. Baby Matthew was one of many recent victims of gun violence, who was not the intended target of the act perpetrated against him. He was in his mother's car when they were caught in the crossfire between two men who were shooting at each other. The senseless killing of another innocent victim prompted Mayor Andre Dickens to have an open conversation about the violence plaguing the Metro Area. (https://nypost.com/2022/01/26/mom-of-baby-killed-in-atlanta-drive-by-slams-alleged-killers/).

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Mayor Dickens addresses the issue of gun violence in Atlanta on February 05, 2022Photo by Keyanna Jones

Mayor Dickens sought, not only to address the issue of gun violence; but to hear from those who live in the Metro Atlanta Area about what they see in their neighborhoods. Considering that the two suspects in the shooting were in their twenties, he particularly wanted to hear from the youth. So, he reached out to a well-respected mentor of at-risk youth: one who had helped many youth in Atlanta turn from a life of crime. He called upon Gary L. Davis, Sr., Executive Director of the Next Level Boys Academy (NLBA), which is a diversion program designed to reduce recidivism amongst young black men and black boys. The program also offers mentorship, life and social skills, conflict resolution strategies, anger management, behavior modification, GED resources and job placement assistance. The program is not only geared toward helping the at-risk individual turn to a more favorable path; but it is also a support program for families. They have specific programs for single parents and their children, that aid in the rehabilitation and behavior modification processes. Many youth who go through the program become entrepreneurs and go on to fulfill their dreams of graduating college.

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Gary L. Davis, Sr., Executive Director of the Next Level Boys Academy and his staffPhoto by Keyanna Jones

The community came out in great number to take part in the conversation and hear from the youth who are so often affected by the violence that now seems to plague the Metro Area. In attendance were families with children as young as 3 years old, community activists and advocates, as well as leaders of local youth empowerment and mentoring organizations. They all came together with the common cause of seeking answers to the Mayor's pressing question: What is the cause of the uptick in violence? When asked, one young man answered, "because there are too many scared people with guns." The young man (who is a member of the Next Level Boys Academy) went on to talk about the availability of guns on the street, and the ease with which some young people are able to acquire them. Another young man talked about the knowledge of people who had acquired large sums of money through illegal means and how it made them prime targets for robbery. This is especially true for those who "flex" on social media, the young man continued. Mayor Dickens also asked the young men to think about the impact of social media, and how it influences the actions of young people. The young men talked about the impact of social media on the environment in the neighborhoods around them, and how it leads to negative actions in many cases. They posited that this is mostly because the majority of young people are easily influenced, and give in to peer pressure. This response prompted the Mayor to issue a challenge and a charge to the young men. He challenged them to post only positive images, quotes and stories on their social media pages, in hopes that it will change the atmosphere in the communities where they live, work and socialize. In doing so, they could all help to make communities safer, by changing the mindset of those who live in them. After issuing the challenge, Mayor Dickens left to attend the funeral of Baby Matthew Grayson Fleming-Gray.

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Mayor Dickens looks on as the community has an open discussion about violence in Metro AtlantaPhoto by Keyanna Jones

Community members and families stayed to hear more about the success stories made possible by the Next Level Boys Academy. They were invited to attend their weekly programs and learn more about how the entire family can benefit from involvement. The NLBA Diversion Program is accepted in Fulton, DeKalb, Clayton, Cobb, Gwinnett, Douglas, Fayette, Troup, Newton and Spaulding Counties. To learn more about the Next Level Boys Academy, or support their efforts, please visit http://nextlevelboysacademy.com.

Reported by Keyanna Jones

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