On Saturday, Sept. 7, hundreds of demonstrators returned to the streets of Harlem for the Million Youth March. Since its tragic ending in 1998, commemorators hoped to reawaken a generation that has been silenced by violence.

Beginning their march on 125th Street, the youth spoke up and out on the severity of gun violence, racial profiling and the hope that their communities would one day be a place of peace, not oppression.

“Put the pistols down! I’m begging you,” said speaker Ayonna Khayyam, the 14-year-old vice president of the Young Money Group, a financial literacy program in St. Louis, Mo.

Khayyam hopes the voice of youth is heard in her community and not neglected.

“Black-on-Black crime is everywhere; you never know when you’re going to be attacked, shot … it’s dangerous out here. You can’t go places by yourself in this world,” Khayyam said to the AmNews. The young educator added, “Youth have their own perspective, and it could be the answer to the problem.”

During the rally, the Atlanta-based R&B group Final Draft also took to the stage to communicate a positive message for today’s youth.

“The kids are the future, the next generation; they’re going to be the future leaders. They need to voice their opinions on what’s going on in the environment today,” said Final Draft rapper Fashun. “We’re here to encourage them to be the future leaders and be positive role models in their community.”

Though the crowd was filled with a scarce amount of youth, Autum Ashante, a 15-year-old aspiring medical student at Norwalk Community College in Connecticut and Monique Merritt, a 14-year-old student from Farmingdale High School on Long Island, felt it was significant for us to unite as a people.

“It’s important for us to come together as a people. We’re doing something positive, something constructive to learn about ourselves and learn to love ourselves,” said Ashante.

“We can get together and be strong together,” said Merritt.

For many youth at the march, learning to use their voices was not only an important step for themselves, but an important step for their community as well.

“Having [my] own voice means I can speak for myself and one day speak for other people,” said Ashante.

The New York City rally was only the beginning; the Million Youth March will continue in over 100 cities. For more information, visit www.millionyouthmarch2013.com.