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Iesha Sekou: Bringing out the best in youth

Cyril Josh Barker | 4/12/2011, 5:31 p.m.

Iesha Sekou, one of the few women taking violence in the community head on, serves as executive director and founder of Street Corner Resources (SCR). She is also a radio personality for Harlem-based radio station 90.3 FM WHCR with her weekly show, "Street Corner Resources Live."

Her organization's mission is to educate, find employment and provide training resources to youth in order to prevent violence. Her formula is simple: find and secure the gifts of youth and get them so involved with their talent that they don't have time to be a part of the negative aspects of the streets.

Sekou, the second eldest of five children, grew up in the South Bronx. While she said her neighborhood had violence and gangs, there was a sense of community and love that she feels should be used today.

"People looked out for each other," she said. "We built a community. If you did something wrong, someone would call you out on it and then tell your parents. Some of my neighbors would give me lectures if I messed up."

After graduating high school, Sekou went to the Sunshine State to get her higher education by attending historically Black universities, beginning with Florida A&M University then earning her degree in English and journalism at Bethune-Cookman University.

She said, "I lived in Florida for 11 years. I saw it as a home away from home."

Sekou said that she gets her inspiration to help others from her mother, who was an activist in her neighborhood and a Black Panther who always lent a hand to others. Growing up, Sekou recalls having families stay in her home with nowhere else to go when times got rough.

"I always remember [my mother] helping people with food and people staying in the house. I thought that's what people just did for other people," she said.

Today, Sekou uses similar tactics as her mother by taking it to the streets. SCR was started in 2007 and Sekou believes in the potential of greatness in young people by seeking their talents and helping them pursue their dreams.

"I love seeing people change and being a part of their transition," she said. "A lot of these kids need to be validated. Whenever I see a young man with his pants down, I always say, 'Come here, intelligent' or 'Pull your pants up, handsome.'"

Active in the streets and dealing with young people who are affiliated with gangs, Sekou believes that there is a loss of the family structure in the community. She said that many parents have given up and that a lack of basic needs is one reason why so many kids turn to gangs and violence. She is so active in the streets that youth refer to her affectionately as "Mom."

"We have to teach them and we have to be willing to take the journey for the long haul," she said. "You can't tell kids to 'stop the violence' for a day. We have to step up and give them balance."

SCR, in partnership with Nike, is launching the "I Am Peace" campaign, which advocates the need for people to create peace for themselves then bring it back to the community. SCR is also in the process of raising funds for a mobile unit for education training and other resources.

Sekou can be heard on Mondays from 8 a.m. to 9 a.m. on 90.3 FM WHCR. For more information about SCR, log onto www.streetcornerresources.com.