Leyens urged to help city’s youths

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, July 18, 2001

Mayor Laurence Leyens speaks at his first community outreach meeting Tuesday night at the B’nai B’rith Literary Club. At right is Community Improvement Coordinator Robert Hubbard; at left is South Ward Alderman Sid Beauman. (The Vicksburg Post/C. TODD SHERMAN)

[07/18/01] In the new administration’s first community outreach meeting Tuesday, residents said the biggest challenge facing Vicksburg today is creating a safe environment for children.

Mayor Laurence Leyens, who promised during his campaign for City Hall that he would meet monthly with residents, and other city officials were among the 12 people at the meeting. Topics such as race relations and community pride were also discussed briefly, but the focus was on the city’s youths.

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“There is a concern of the parents about having something for the children to do that is community-oriented,” said Naomi Boswell.

Leyens, who took office July 1, said the meeting will be followed next month with another meeting with more people and each month after that in different neighborhoods.

He said he does not know what step will solve issues with children and he is looking to the public for answers.

“These sweeping statements like, Let’s save the children,’ are not going to do it,” Leyens said.

The Rev. Manney Murphy, pastor of Greater Jerusalem Church, agreed and said that hope is the most important thing for people to have. Murphy said adults must reach out to children.

“These kids have already shown us that they have something to do,” Murphy said. “It may not be what we want them to do, but they have something to do.”

Specifically, Leyens pointed out places such as grocery store parking lots where teens hang out at night. He said suggestions such as running them off is not the answer because that will only scatter them across town.

Murphy suggested bringing activities to them such as a project he was involved with in Atlanta called Midnight Basketball.

“They’ve already shown us they will go to Delchamp’s (SuperValu),” he said. “Let’s infiltrate that and get to know them.”

While no plans were made during the hourlong meeting, Leyens said it was an important forum for sharing ideas and bringing the concerns of the community to city leaders.

“I think it is so valuable to see you all together, black and white, working together,” Kay Boolos said of the room where six blacks and six whites had gathered.

Other city officials at the meeting included South Ward Alderman Sid Beauman, Police Chief Mitchell Dent and Fire Chief Kevin Westbrook.