In which Mr. Joke gets to meet the new cohort from Partners for Youth in Durham. (Chen Kai photo)
In which Mr. Joke gets to meet the new cohort from Partners for Youth in Durham. (Chen Kai photo)

The electric blue lights from multiple police cars flashed ominously down South Fayetteville Street, sending a clear message: someone was in a heap of trouble.

As I drove past, my worst fears were confirmed.  Five cop cars surrounded a single older vehicle; a dozen white police officers milled about. Below them on the curbside, all in white T-shirts, sat four black teenage boys, heads hung down, sullen and stone-faced. Busted.

Six years ago — before the murder of Eve Carson — my reaction would have been: Good for the cops.

But not any more.

I want those guys, I heard myself saying.

Those kids on the curbside should be in the teen newsroom of the Durham VOICE. They should be in the good hands of Partners for Youth Opportunity (PYO).

That take-down scene represents a tragic example of a failed community, and it hurts me to witness such a social melt-down. If we all don’t step up to help our at-risk kids, who on earth will?

That’s why I’m excited about this fall’s plan to strengthen the bond between the VOICE and PYO. The VOICE is blessed to have such a great organization with which to work. Executive Director Julie Wells and Teen Mentoring Carlton Koonce share our goal of youth development and civic engagement.

Later than same morning, I got to meet the first cohort of next year’s Partners for Youth Opportunity.  See that photo of me and the kids? When you look at these faces, how can you not be excited for the coming fall — and hopeful for these youth?

But I’m still haunted by the memory of that sad scene down on South Fayetteville Street — and those lost boys.

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