The death of another teenager at a large house party this past weekend has raised questions about the ways in which violence is intersecting with youth’s socialization. Dequavious Stephon Mapp, 18, died this past weekend when gunfire erupted during a party in Conyers, GA. The gunshots also  injured two other teens. This shooting follows the fatal attack on Bobby Tillman, an Atlanta teen who was punched and stomped to death outside of a party in Douglasville last week.

The city of Conyers is taking action to enact zero-tolerance policies for large house parties and ordinance violations. Officers in the area are hoping that the hard push will help stop youth violence.

“When we get there, if there’s any violation . . . I don’t care if it’s state law, I don’t care if it’s city ordinance, if it’s a licensing violation, a zoning violation, a parking violation, a sanitation violation, we’re going to make cases that we can make,” Conyers Police Chief Gene Wilson told the Atlanta Journal Constitution.

Over 75 people were in attendance at the party where the young man was fatally shot.

“It’s obviously that [these parties] have become more violent. We want our kids to have a good time, but at the same time, they are not going to take over the neighborhood and be in the middle of a Wild West shootout” stated Chief Gene Wilson.

What happened to partying civilly? Those old upbeat boogie downs from the past are no longer what they used to be. Parties are meant to be spaces for safe socializing, but it is well known that that is often not the case. Some teenagers find themselves caught up in uncomfortable situations. Parties have become sites of peer pressure and popularity contests. Party scenes create ripe situations for sexual harassment, underage drinking, consumption of drugs, and bullying. As loud, bumping, and upbeat as the music may be, underlying tones of embarrassment and  tension can come alive in these loosely private yet public spaces.

How do we fight youth violence? Do we tell our youth not to party? Does youth violence stem from the need for attention and power? Much can be learned from the generations who came before us, and the root for the problem behind youth violence today seems to center around self-respect and tolerance. Individuals who look to guns and death as means of settling tensions or building power for themselves tarnish not only the reputation of their communities but also their own reputations. It is weak to look to violence as a means of settling a situation—lives are too innocent to be lost over someone’s cheating girlfriend or control of a turf or nothing—which is often what young teens are beefing over. Absolutely nothing.

Moreover, the fact that we continue to blindly accept the subtle violence that youths carry out in our community affirms their dangerous paths of self-destruction. Youths who kill each other aren’t born from the womb with intentions to be murderers. It is a fact that environment shapes the development of a child and what activities he or she will choose to engage in. However, by not stopping the kid who verbally abuses his fellow peers or by not speaking to the parents of the girl who is constantly erupting in fights at school, we, as a community, give violence a fleeting pass, letting subtle acts give permission for it to persist.

Peers are more powerful than they think—not every situation is safe to speak up in—but those that can be controlled should. It is important that we seek to increase awareness about youth violence in our communities and provide safe harbors and positive activities for youths to be involved in so they don’t get caught up on the wrong side of the neighborhood.  The fight to end youth violence and prevent more and more teenagers from being killed in our communities must be supported all around—an effort must be made not only through tolerance policies in school, but through the vigilance of parents and peers.

What do you think? How can we end youth violence in our communities?

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