Thursday, June 14, Syracuse Peace Action celebrated four area youth with a recognition dinner and awards for their projects and organizations focused toward youth activism. The youth: Rydell Davis, Eddie Mitchell, Jacob Reeder and Vivian Ho were honored at ArtRage gallery on 505 Hawley Ave. and their families were invited to dine with members of Syracuse Peace Action interested in encouraging their efforts and projects.
“We are encouraging the work that high School students and other young people are doing to promote peace,” said Peace Action organizer Amelia Ramsey-Lefevre.
Often, promoting peace is difficult with marginalized or stereotyped groups. Recipient Jacob Reeder organizes midnight athletic games for inner-city youth and describes his work as a way to demonstrate that inner-city youth can cooperate, work in teams and be non-violent as opposed to how they are often portrayed.
“What we do may sound unimportant, but everyone is free to care for their teammate even though they don’t know them,” said Reeder who says that Syracuse Midnight Athletics doesn’t tolerate drugs or alcohol use. The youth gather from different areas of the city to play games, enjoy and release stress.
“Even the police now check up on us,” said Reeder who hopes that others would allow them to just play and exist peacefully as opposed to in constant suspicion.
Vivian Ho, a graduating senior at Henniger High School, has led several talk-backs and campaigns to promote community and support for English as a Second Language students as well as the LGBTQ community at her school.
“It helps to just have communities and families acknowledge each other,” in trying to be understanding about each individual’s problems Ho conveyed when asked about how communities can support her cause.
After the awards and a video presentation on nuclear power and its dangers, which Syracuse Peace Action organizes around, award recipients, their families and Peace Action members exchanged thoughts about how youth are not far removed from human rights issues if they are engaged on how to think critically about problems in their own communities.
“I was shot, and I don’t want kids to lose friends like I lost friends or not be able to go home,” said Eddie Mitchell of Teen Angels when explaining how he and Raydell reduce violence among teens in the Southwest area.
Board members and members of other agencies echoed that the award recipients have the benefit of seeing “immediate results” in their organizing efforts and exchanged cards and offered assistance to encourage youth to continue their projects.
“Your programs are one step closer towards eradicating larger problems,” said attendee Kathy Barry, a teacher at Montessori Schools of Syracuse.
Vivian Ho will continue onto SUNY Geneseo to study to be an orthodontist, and Jacob Reeder, Raydell Davis and Eddie Mitchell will continue to do work with their groups and are open to assistance.
“We want to teach them that people do look at the work they do and encourage peaceful ways of thinking and peaceful ways to question authority,” Ramsey-Lefevre said.
— Article and photos by Ruthnie Angrand, The Stand Community Correspondent