Youth Community Townhall


May 2019 – The Urban Partnership Drug Free Community Coalition (UPDFCC) hosted a Youth Community Townhall Discussion on May 3. UPDFCC is a community coalition with a priority of reducing underage drinking and marijuana use. The purpose of the Town Hall was to open discussion about alcohol use and substance abuse by inner city youth. Individuals representing three of the 12 community sectors for coalition-building, were invited to be panelists to engage in dialogue with youth about underage drinking and substance use. The panelists were:  Tamara I. Gray – Assistant Public Defender; Steve Williams – Case and Court Services Coordinator at Here’s Help; Officer Pierre Jean-Gilles – City of Miami Police Department; and Tania Andre – Founder and President of The Mavuno Project.

The Town Hall was facilitated by the Youth Frontliners, an organized group of youth dedicated to promoting the goals of UPDFCC through peer engagement. Thy presented the panelists with questions and fielded questions for the audience which was comprised of youth and adults.

During the Town Hall, Officer Pierre Jean-Gilles discussed the issue of parents hosting house parties and the misconception that in that instance, it is not illegal for underage party guests to consume alcohol because adults are present. He advised the audience that in any circumstance, consumption of alcohol by an individual under the age of 21 is illegal.  He stated: “Even in the comfort of your own home, serving alcohol to any minor is strictly prohibited and any involved adults will be arrested and charged.”. Officer Jean-Gilles recommended that parents ensure that outside beverages are not introduced into their homes.

Assistant Public Defender, Tamara I. Gray, described the consequences of drug offenses to a young person’s record. She stated that a youth’s records becomes tainted when he or she is arrested for a drug offense. “Drug offense charges can make youth ineligible for federal grants, federal student loans, and can disqualify them from joining the military and/or the police and fire academy.”. Assistant Public Defender Gray advised youth to be careful about the choices that they make as children as those decisions will affect their future.

Tania Andre, founder and President of The Muvano Project, asserted that to reduce underage drinking and substance abuse, the public should be more vigilant with the portrayal of alcohol and drug use on media platforms.  She believes that limiting media exposure to what is often portrayed as a positive and normal part of the lives of teens through the activities of celebrities and pop culture images, is the first step to the reduction of drug and other substances in youth.

Case and Court Services Coordinator, Steven Williams, spoke about the correlation between mental health and substance abuse. He shared that mental health is often misunderstood and that youth are often mis-diagnosed. He asserted that mis-diagnosed youth often become substance users and, in some instances, can become addicted.

The question: “How many days does it take to become addicted to drugs or alcohol,” yielded an intimate response from UPDFCC’s Program Manager, David Spivey He reflected on his youth and recalled an incident when a group of his friends got together to smoke marijuana.  On that day, the marijuana joint was passed around the circle for all the boys to try. The boys took turns smoking and Mr. Spivey and his friend, Doug were the last two boys waiting to take their turns. Doug took a puff and never lived to see another day. The marijuana had been laced with a chemical that had fatal effects on Doug and he died almost instantly in front of his friends.  Mr. Spivey’s point, in relation to the question that had been posed, was that it only takes one time for marijuana to have deadly effects.

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