March Transform Westside Summit: Women-Led Panel Talks Anti-Violence, Youth Empowerment

To honor Women’s History Month, community members and business leaders came together for a women-led panel and discussion about youth anti-violence at the Westside Future Fund (WFF) Transform Westside Summit on Friday, March 17.

John Ahmann, Westside Future Fund president and CEO, invited new members of the crowd to introduce themselves, and Kanesha “KaCey” Venning, Co-Founder of HEY! Helping Empower Youth, led the devotion.

Meet the Panel

An all-woman panel took the stage to discuss youth anti-violence and how their organizations present options that steer these youth in the right direction. Panelists included:

Powerful Testimony

The most powerful moment of the Summit happened when co-moderator Benjamin Earley, Westside Correspondent at Redclay-Hill and a fourth generation Westside resident, shared his  testimony with tears streaming down his face. (The video contains audio with potentially disturbing language.)

“I grew up on the Westside and from the time I was probably 15 to 27, I lost about seven friends to street ****. Excuse my language, but that’s just what we call it. The difference between where I’m at right now and where some of my peers are, is the fact that I had resources. I had a support system. I had a safe home. I had food, even when we were on food stamps, I could eat every day. It’s real; these are people… and we need our city, Atlanta, the beacon of civil rights, of equality, of justice… we need y’all to stand the hell up. I am tired of losing young Black people in this city when it can be perfectly preventable. This is unnecessary. It’s unnecessary. God, it is unnecessary.”

All Women, All Servant Leaders

WFF CEO John Ahmann praised the work of the all women’s panel, pointing out two words missing from any of their responses — servant leader.

“On this morning’s panel discussion, I heard a lot about service, but I never heard one of them say: ‘I am a servant leader.’ What I’ve learned about real servant leaders is they don’t think about it or say it because they’re so busy serving. These women have been at it for so long, and quite frankly, I don’t know how they keep going sometimes. They are servant leaders, and we can celebrate these women for modeling it.”

Stories & Stats

Local youth talked about their personal experiences with violence in a series of audio snippets that brought Summit co-moderator Ebony Ford to tears. (The video contains audio with potentially disturbing language.)

Panelist Dr. Whylly of the U.S. Attorney General’s office of the Northern District of Georgia also presented  facts and figures:


  • Nationally, gun violence is said to be the leading cause of death for children under the age of 18.
  • On average, it’s estimated that gun violence takes another life every five hours in Georgia.

Juvenile Crime Rate

  • Until 2020, the juvenile crime rate had been declining.
  • Since the pandemic, homicides committed by a single juvenile alone increased by 30%.
  • Multiple juveniles committing a homicide increased by 66%.
  • Homicides committed by children under 14 was at its highest in two decades.

Effects of Gun Violence

  • 40% of children exposed to gun violence develop PTSD.

Make an Impact

We invite you to sign up to be a mentor as part of the LitChics program so you can make a lasting impact on metro Atlanta youth who are affected by violence.

Miss the event? Watch the full Transform Westside Summit on YouTube.