Louisville youth share ideas for solving community problems at second annual JusticeFest – 89.3 WFPL News Louisville

On Saturday, young people in Louisville offered ideas to improve and uplift their communities at the Kentucky Derby Festival’s second annual JusticeFest.

The event gives local students the opportunity to present their ideas to a panel of community leaders. It is organized in conjunction with Justice Now, a Jefferson County Public Schools program created in response to racial and social unrest seen in the city since 2020.

Students who participate in Justice Now work with staff sponsors in schools to create, plan and present initiatives and projects that address issues that affect their lives.

Dodie Howlett, vice president of marketing and creative strategies at Kentucky Derby Festival (KDF), said JusticeFest is part of a larger program called The Derby Equity and Community Initiative.

“The aim of this initiative is to find ways during the Derby season, and throughout the year, to restore, support and create,” said Howlett.

JusticeFest falls under the “create” pillar of this initiative by giving students the opportunity to present their ideas to local leaders who can help them bring them to life.

More than 20 different student groups presented their projects on Saturday.

Some groups focused on ways to advance projects that were already underway.

“Tricked Out Trash Cans” by Mighty Shades of Ebony aims to design trash cans and trucks in a way that helps reduce trash in Louisville’s West End. They have already acquired trash cans to paint and revamp.

“Now we’re trying to get the community organizations that actually run the bins — waste management, public works — to help us learn the next steps of this, and then put them in neighborhoods that also need funding,” Howlett said.

Other students, like those at Wheatley Elementary, were presenting their ideas for the first time.

Wheatley’s group tackled the stigma of hoodies in their “Hoodies for Hope” project. They objected to the idea that hoodies somehow signal criminal or bad behavior. They want to create a hoodie line that promotes anti-violence messages in their design and remove the JCPS ban on wearing hoodies in schools.

A group from Western High School came up with a multi-part project called “Say Our Names: The Collection.”

“Some of the things we would like to shine a light on are racism, child abuse, neglect, addiction, mental health, gun violence and more,” said Sanaa Bolton, a 14-year-old student who has presented to the panel.

“Say Our Names: The Collection” is made up of four elements, including the creation of a book and a documentary that would chronicle the process of creating and following through on student project ideas.

Students also want to put on a play about issues that concern them, written in their own words.

“It’s a way for us to show people who we are, what we’re going through,” said Aubreyonna Durah, a 14-year-old student in Western’s Justice Now program.

The other two components would honor Western High School graduate Breonna Taylor. Taylor was killed by Louisville Metro Police during a raid on her apartment, which led to racial justice protests that have continued since 2020.

“I feel like Breonna Taylor didn’t shed a lot of light on her name, so I really wanted to help that out,” Bolton said.

During their presentation, the students read a quote from Taylor found in a Western yearbook: “I want to be the one who finally breaks the cycle of my family’s educational history, I want to be the one who finally makes the difference. »

This quote was a guiding principle for their projects.

The proposal included the creation of memorials dedicated to Taylor in Western. The group said it would hold a competition at the school to choose student designs for the memorials.

The bulk of Western’s project would be a community center, called The Breonna Taylor Performing Arts Clubhouse. It would contain a space for students to express themselves, as well as a kitchen, lounge, media room and garden.

The overarching goal of all student projects is to create a safe place for people like them.

“If they have a safe place, whether it’s in our home, in our clubhouse, or in them watching our documentary and hoping they can do something like that, I feel like that’s good and it will be better for them,” said Brooklyn White, 16.

The full list of presentations is available at KDF websitewhere people can get involved in projects through mentoring, networking or funding.