10/07/07 — Committee, community start another conversation on youths

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Committee, community start another conversation on youths

By Nick Hiltunen
Published in News on October 7, 2007 2:26 AM

Edna J. Turner wonders why efforts to combat youth violence are divided along political lines.

Ms. Turner was at Goldsboro Public Library on Saturday, taking part in the Committee to Save the Children and Nesti Inc.'s conversation about youth crime and violence.

The Goldsboro resident and Eastern Wayne High School exceptional children's teacher said she didn't understand why multiple organizations existed for the same problem.

"I'm hearing the same information," Ms. Turner said. "You're asking for the same thing that's already out there, but from a different slant. If you pool those resources and that money, then we can get the Nesti Center off the ground, and get it up and running. Everybody's got the interest.

Thomas Pridgen, who has served as Goldsboro's minimum housing inspector, said that politics are "an unfortunate reality, but a reality."

"Everything revolves around money," Pridgen said. "This child and all the other ones are suffering because of the politics.

"We have to sit down, and like you said, across-the-board deal with our differences for the sake of these kids. Until that happens, we're going to have these factions."

In the meantime, however, The Committee to save the Children and Nesti Inc. was preparing for the group's Community Unity Day, to be held at Mina Weil park Oct. 20.

The park is behind Carver Heights Elementary, and will feature free rides for children, founder Dawud Salaam said.

Nesti is an acronym standing for National Entrepreneurs Skills Training Institute.

Salaam, who markets Good Scents Incense and Pure Body Oils and Black Sun Rising Records, says that entrepreneurship is one way to keep troubled youths from drugs and violence.

Salaam said he has been petitioning city council members to provide space for his dream, a center for Nesti Inc., a program he started in Philadelphia.

Salaam said while he grieved the shooting death of his son, he came to Goldsboro with an original purpose that was "anything but good" and was subsequently arrested.

A judge told Salaam that he could not return to Philadelphia until he paid restitution, causing his wife, who was born and raised here, to come and establish residence.

Since then, Salaam has spent the rest of his 12 years in Goldsboro trying to launch his self-employment skills program, he said.

Bill Sutton, founder of Up Magazine, an African American-centered publication that he said aimed to combat negative images of black in the media, also spoke.

Sutton said he, too, was once a troubled youth, and moved north in search of a job. When he left, signs on bathroom doors separating blacks and whites were still commonplace, he said.

"I did get that job," Sutton said. "It was a little bit better, but basically we were just trading one despair for another one. I found myself drifting to the underbelly of society."

But as members of his group of friends died one by one around him -- until he was the only one of six or seven left, he started asking himself why he survived.

He says that has taught him a lesson about why today's young people make the decisions that they make.

"It's the pain," Sutton said. "Our young men, and our young women, too -- it's the pain. We thought by getting material things, it would ease the pain. That was our ultimate goal."

And while multiple groups might be fighting youth violence in Goldsboro, they are not the only ones, the Nesti Inc. founder said.

"What is happening here in Goldsboro is not unique, because the same problems that we face are being faced in cities throughout the United States," Salaam said.