There have been a multitude of youth-based events that have occurred in and around New York City. Though most have the well-being and success of young attendees at heart, many of them sizzle and fizzle into something lacking follow-up. But young people need ongoing support from a community of elders, and a pragmatic road map to the life of their dreams.
VJ/DJ Ralph McDaniels, affectionately known in the entertainment industry as “Uncle Ralph” for his revered status as a hip-hop media forefather, is well aware of the ills that face the teenagers of today and is putting his money where his mouth is with the upcoming Brooklyn Teen Summit. Taking place Saturday, April 26 at Borough Hall in Brooklyn, it’s about giving the young people a place to speak.
“Brooklyn Teen summit is about giving youth, especially in the Brooklyn area, an opening mic to talk about issues that are going on in their community,” said Ralph, in an interview with The Shadow League. “I’m one of the founders of it. It was something where we realized our youth have been lied to, betrayed and stepped on by everybody from advertisers to marketing people to get what they want but nobody asked (the youth) what they would like or at least to express what’s going on in the community.”
American eats her young. And there is no place where those words are made reality like the inner cities of America. But McDaniels’ itinerary is about confronting that.
“It’ll open up with entertainment, because that’s what people know me for best,” says Ralph, a former Hot 97 DJ who directed the video for Nas' "It Ain't Hard to Tell." His show Video Music Box still airs in New York on WNYC after 30 years. “It will open with some local artists as well as special dignitaries from the Brooklyn area and they will come out and greet the young people. For the second hour we will have the panel that will feature the first African-American borough president of Brooklyn, Eric Adams. Then Brooklyn DA Kenneth P. Thompson, who is the first African-American DA. These are two big milestones as far as political figures in the area of Brooklyn.”
With other confirmed attendees including Boardwalk Empire actor Michael K. Williams, Jadakiss, Troy Ave, and recording artist ASAP Ferg, pulling the kids in with the celebrity factor is just a draw to give them what they really need. “The main thing at this event is there will be guaranteed paid internships to many of them when they leave this event,” said McDaniels. “That will come through various organizations. We have a hospital where they will have paid internships shadowing doctors and nursing students. The District Attorney’s office is offering paid internships to young people so they can learn more about law enforcement and how it works. My organization will offer paid internships where when I’m out at events and doing interviews with people. We’ll have some paid interns in the communications field, television and film.”
Events that seek to inspire and motivate inner-city youth are meant to be positive affairs. However, at the end of the day, money is the ultimate motivator. That’s where the Brooklyn Teen Summit comes in separating itself from many other events of its ilk.
“We don’t want to just talk to the kids and say ‘Just go to school’,” he continues. “We want to make sure they are busy this summer, we want to make sure that they are not getting in trouble, we want to give them the chance to work outside of their community because some of them have never left their neighborhoods. They don’t leave their community so they don’t understand what it is to travel, even if it’s to another borough or another state. We want to open their eyes and let them see that there are other things out there in the world. We want to use this model and take it to other boroughs and hopefully other cities if people want it.”
The Brooklyn Teen Summit 2014 is from 1pm to 5pm on Saturday, April 26, at Borough Hall. Sponsors include Video Music Box, BET and HOT 97.