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Hannah Bell murder remains tragic mystery

Teenage Black girls increasing target of violence

Sikivu Hutchinson | 4/4/2019, midnight
There are no accessible youth community centers in...

Fittingly, newly appointed Black female California Surgeon General Nadine Burke Harris has identified preventing and addressing toxic stress among children as one of her highest priority agenda items. She notes that, far too often, “mental trauma is considered unrelated to medical care”. This perception only reinforces the systemic denial of mental health care to Black girls.

Bell was killed not far from where LAPD officers gunned down 18 year-old Carnell Snell in the Westmont community near Washington Prep High School in 2017. The corridor is still dominated by fast food joints, storefront churches, 99 cent stores, and beauty salons. Pushing back against the absence of culturally responsive spaces for youth of color in Los Angeles, the Youth Justice Coalition (YJC) and other activist groups pressed for the passage of a Youth Reinvestment Act in the California Legislature.

The 2019 Youth Reinvestment Grant, fund provides $37.3 million to fund “diversion programs & community-based services for youth at risk of system involvement”. While the fund is a good start, it’s still a drop in the bucket, which is why the National Center for Youth Law is asking that the fund be boosted by another $100 million. It is precisely because of the lack of educational, job training and therapeutic facilities in communities like South L.A. that Black and Latina youth are at “greater risk” for becoming victims of violence and system-involved.

After a long battle with city and county government, YJC was recently victorious in its efforts to get an abandoned South L.A. jail facility converted to a new youth center for its community offices. But, in most neighborhoods of color, the lack of access to designated youth spaces, coupled with high rates of criminalization and police suppression, make Black girls especially vulnerable to street violence, sexual violence, and domestic and intimate partner violence.

Speaking on the tragedy of Hannah’s killing last year, Rashad Mays pleaded, “Imagine if it was your daughter that was taken. I’m asking the community to come forward and help us out.” We owe it to Hannah and all the other victims of “normalized” gun violence right here in our communities to make their lives visible.

Sikivu Hutchinson is the author of the novel and play “White Nights,” “Black Paradise” and founder of the Women’s Leadership Project feminist mentoring and civic engagement program for girls of color in South Los Angeles.