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#TeenSummit2018: Featured Emcee Javon Johnson by Lexi Tolson

January 30, 2018

Javon Johnson is a published author, killer poet, and so much more! Javon began writing poetry and performing in 2001, won the national slam in both 2003 and 2004, and placed third in slam nationals in 2005! Javon is also a co-writer of this amazing documentary called Crossover, so go check it out ! Javon also made some pretty special appearances on HBO’s Def Poetry Jam, BET’s Lyric Café, TV One’s Verses and Flow, The Steve Harvey Show, Arsenio Hall Show, and United Shades of America w/ Kamau Bell on CNN, and will be making a grand appearance at our very own Teen Summit! But don’t sleep, along with all of Javon Johnson’s accomplishments, he’s done so much more. Javon earned an Ph.D in Performance Studies, making him Dr. Johnson, along with being an Assistant Professor and Director of African American and African Diaspora studies. Javon has mounted exhibitions at the California African American Museum, managing the history department, and now he’s coming to support our Movement and students in Des Moines Public Schools to get free and stay as woke as we can be! PSA: YOU DO NOT WANT TO MISS THIS! Come and get acquainted with Dr. Javon Johnson at RunDSM’s 5th Annual Teen Summit. Our space is your space, and we cant wait to see y’all there! #Teensummit2018

#TeenSummit2018: Mental Health Awareness by Steven Kenyon

January 25, 2018

The students of Urban Leadership are in the midst of producing RunDSM’s 5th Annual Teen Summit, with the goal of providing young people safe spaces to grapple with urgent social issues, becoming ambassadors for change. Today’s blog post, written by Steven Kenyon of North High School, raises awareness on the first of four topics that will guide the conversations, art, and poetry created for this years event: Mental Health and Self-Care. Enjoy!

Mental Health is an unforetold underlying problem within the current generation of youth in this day in age. Many mental disorders and problems go unchecked within the homes, schools, and workplaces of the developing generation of our age which often negatively affects and inhibits our capabilities as human beings. These kinds of topics go unnoticed throughout regular everyday life not knowing how crucial our mental health truly is essential to being able to wake up and be able to function as a person, progress, and be able to positively reach out to those in our lives. Emotionally, physically and mentally we are all susceptible to mental problems, that is why it is a prevalent issue in today’s time and to educate the public and learn how mental health affects the general youth and how we can prevent or assist our peers in those in need of help. Mental health can branch out between several different forms of mental problems, including the types of people that are affected by mental health issues and the disparities between them.

Depression and suicide are prevalent common factors within the generations of youth and are still prevalent and current issues today. Approximately 1 out of 5 youth ages 13-18 (21.4%) experiences a severe mental disorder at some point during their life. The estimate for children aged 8-15 is 13%.[1] Suicide is the third leading cause of death for youth between the ages of 10 and 24, resulting in 4,513 deaths in 2008.[2] To follow that up, within a survey of private and public high school students, 13.8% reported that they had seriously considered attempting suicide; 10.9% had made a plan for how they would attempt suicide; 6.3% percent reported that they had attempted suicide one or more times within the past year and; 1.9% had made a suicide attempt that resulted in an injury, poisoning, or an overdose that had to be treated by a doctor or nurse.[3]

Youth mental health does not only broadcast itself to the general audience of society either, it affects everyone including youth from low-income households are at an increased risk for mental health disorders. 21% of low-income children and youth aged 6-17 have mental health disorders[4] including 57% of low-income children and youth come from households with incomes at or below the federal poverty level.[5]

Youth that are involved within the child welfare and juvenile justice systems are at an even higher risk for having a mental health disorder. 50% of children in the child welfare system have mental health disorders.[6] 67-70% of youth within the juvenile justice system have a diagnosable mental health disorder. [7]  Risks of mental health issues, especially traumatic stress is greatly increased for children who are living within foster care due to abuse and neglect. Children often suffer from traumatic stress due to experiencing or witnessing the injury or death of someone else, or otherwise feeling seriously threatened. [8]

Youth mental health covers a wide variety of people including those of color experiencing disparities in prevalence and treatment for mental health issues. 88% of Latino children and youth have unmet mental health needs compared to 77% for African-Americans and 76% for white children and youth.[9] 31% of white children and youth receive mental health services compared to 13% of children of color.[10] 20% of female Latino high school students seriously considered attempting suicide and 15.4% constructed a suicide plan, compared to 16.1% of white female high school students who considered suicide and 12.3% who made a suicide plan.[11]

Looking into the future we need to do something and act together upon the awareness of mental health within our youth. Over a 5-year youth mental health has worsened and is worsening as access to care is limited. Within the 5-year period rates of severe youth depression have increased from 5.9% to 8.2% and over 1.7 million youth with major depressive episodes did not receive treatment, to put that into perspective that’s enough to fill every major league baseball stadium on the east coast twice. Even with severe depression, 76% of youth are left with no or insufficient treatment.[12] Through information such as this we can clearly see that we need to come together as a community to help raise awareness about mental health, mental health providers and the effects of mental health disorders to help show how important and crucial this is to the youth.

What can we do?

Part of the process of raising mental health awareness is educating the public and the youth of our generation to take action and be active within the community. Through the process of educating our folks and getting people active to educate others we can help those in need and hopefully lower some of the numbers found in our statistics. Programs and websites such as the ones used above are amazing examples of groups that take action and participate within the important topic that is youth mental health today. Examples of these programs can be found even within some of our own schools such as the SPEAK program within Central Academy which is used to discuss and educate those with youth mental health issues and help assist the community with the struggles that some of our peers may have. The YMHA of Vancouver organizes plenty of events relating towards raising awareness of mental health such as campaigns and fundraisers to help communities with raising awareness. The MHA provides several resources for mental health within America including social media, and annual conferences to provide awareness and help within communities of America relating to mental health. There is a superfluous amount of organizations, associations, and programs all relating to mental health, too many to count, and the more than we gather attention to the rising the current issue of mental health in youth today the more we can help and assist our folks currently struggling with the problems of mental health.

Mental Health Resources


[1] Any Disorder Among Children. (n.d.) Retrieved January 16, 2015, from

[2] CDC, 2008

[3] CDC, 2009

[4] Howell, 2004

[5] Howell, 2004

[6] Burns et al., 2004

[7] Skowyra & Cocozza, 2006

[8] Pynoos et al., 2004

[9] Kataoka, Zhang, & Wells, 2002

[10] Ringel & Sturm, 2001

[11] CDC, 2009

[12] Nguyen, Theresa, et al. State of Mental Health in America 2018, Mental Health America, 2017.

Poverty + Environmental Justice

December 4, 2017
Food The Resistance is Hungry (article)

Food Deserts in Des Moines (Prezi)

Mobile Food Pantry in DSM (article)

The Bigger Picture Campaign (spoken word poetry/music videos)

Food Access Advocates Walk The Long Walk … To The Nearest Grocery Store (article)

Philly Urban Creators (organization addressing needs)

A Guerilla Gardener in South Central LA (TED Talk)

GMO by Team Des Moines (spoken word poem)

Grow Food (song)

Guns, Hunger, and Lack of Clothing (article)

Hunger Games (spoken word)

Impact of Man: A Cartoon

Water A Brief History of Environmental Justice (video)

Des Moines Fights To Keep Its Water Clean (article)

Protect Our Mother Earth. Stop Factory Farms! (spoken word)

Flint Water Crisis Fast Facts (article/timeline)

Flint Still Is Without Water (article)

New World Water by Mos Def (song)

Over 50% of Iowa Water is Polluted (article)

Iowa Farmers and Polluted Water (article)

The EPA and Iowa Water (article)

Water, Pollution, and Health (article)

Flint, Nestle, and the Consumption of Bottled Water (article)

USA and Water (article)

Beyond Flint (article)

Impact of Man: A Cartoon

Air A Brief History of Environmental Justice (video)

Air Pollution and Schools (article)

Air Pollution and Violence (abstract article)

Iowa Air Quality (article)

Air Emissions from Livestock (article)

Air and Income (article)

California Air Quality (article)

5 Deadly Effects of Air Pollution (article)

A Small Needful Fact (poem)

Race Best Predicts Whether You Live Near Pollution (article)

Impact of Man: A Cartoon

Air Pollution: A Cartoon

Shelter Des Moines and Homeless (article + video)

Homeless Shelters (video)

Des Moines Clears Out Camps (article)

Toxic Waste and Property Values (article)

Environmental Justice and Gentrification (article)

Gentrification and Going Green (article)

East Village and Low Income Renters (article)

“Gentrification” by Javon Johnson (spoken word poem)

See Brooklyn Before and After Gentrification (photo essay/article)

N.C. and Urban Poverty (article)

Racial Gaps in Des Moines (article)

Race, Housing, Education, Economics in IA (article)

Poverty (Ted Talk)

US Urban Poverty: Baltimore As A Case Study (video)

Des Moines Considers Options On Affordable Housing Programs (article)


Education Education and Air Pollution (article)

New Orleans School Built on Toxic Dump (article)

Urban Ed and STEM

The Return of School Segregation in Eight Charts (article)

How The Systemic Segregation Of Schools Is Maintained By ‘Individual Choices’ (article)

The reason America’s schools are so segregated — and the only way to fix it (article)

Brave New Schools – Carlynn from Youth Speaks Seattle (spoken word poem)

Guns, Hunger, and Lack of Clothing (article)

Racial Gaps in Des Moines (article)

Race, Housing, Education, Economics in IA (article)

No Child Left Behind (Spoken Word)

Rigged Game (Spoken Word)

New Teachers (Spoken Word)

How American Schools Keep Kids in Poverty (Ted Talk)

Employment Unemployment Definition (video)

Iowa’s Fight for 15 (campaign)

Income Inequality (article)

How do we fix income inequality? (video)

Poverty and Urban Unemployment (article/ interview)

Donald Trump Should Tackle Urban Poverty (article)

 N.C. Urban Poverty and Its Impact (article)

Iowa Wages (article)

Minimum Wage (article)

Guns, Hunger, and Lack of Clothing (article)

Racial Gaps in Des Moines (article)

Race, Housing, Education, Economics in IA (article)

US Urban Poverty: Baltimore As A Case Study (video)