Street violence and kids on Charleston’s West Side

In 2004, lawmakers passed a sweeping resolution condemning the disparities between black and white residents in West Virginia.

When it comes to kids, the resolution pointed to the overrepresentation of African American youth in the juvenile justice system, and the test score gap between black and white students. 

It called for action and answers.   Activists on  Charleston’s West Side were among those pushing for the measure. There, in one of  Charleston’s most predominantly black neighborhoods, the crisis wasn’t about numbers. It was about their kids.

Now, three years later, some of the legislative recommendations have been followed up on.  Some have not.  But the community-driven efforts to keep kids out of the streets and engaged in school continues. There’s urgency behind their efforts. They’re fighting for their kids. It’s happening in the midst of a historical vacuum around race in  West Virginia. African Americans make up 3 percent of  West Virginia’s population, and we don’t hear about black residents in  West Virginia very often. The stories about  Charleston’s  West Side that do hit the news are often quick headlines about crime, and residents are sensitive about the neighborhood’s negative reputation.

But African American leaders in the neighborhood are also acknowledging the problems in their neighborhood, and they’re working to address them.

For the next three days, Anna Sale takes an in-depth look at the challenges facing the most at risk African American youth. We wanted to tell the stories from the voices of the people who live and work there- from teachers in the schools, preachers in the churches, and kids themselves.

We start today with a look at youth and street crime on the
West Side, and how kids like Billy Carter find themselves in handcuffs before their 18th birthdays.

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