COLUMBIA — Tents and the smell of barbecue filled Douglass Park. People laid on blankets, sharing food, stories and laughs with their family and friends as music played in the background.
The Black and White Ball closed the weekend-long festivities with a picnic and talent show at Douglass Park on Sunday afternoon.
The picnic is the final opportunity this weekend for old classmates and families to reunite. The talent show, held on the basketball courts at 3 p.m, showcased youth talent.
"Kids have been practicing and rehearsing for this," said Anna Linzie, 43, and a volunteer coordinator for the talent show. "Events like these are positive for kids and should be supported."
As the Black and White Ball events wound down, some of the participants turned their attention back to the issue of youth crime and violence that has shaken the community over the past months.
On Monday, the Columbia City Council is expected to appoint a task force to address crime and youth violence in the community. The task force will be a 13-member panel that will hold discussions on topics such as a youth curfew, early childhood intervention and law enforcement practices, according previous Missourian reporting.
People at the picnic said they were concerned about the crime and suggested the city provide more support for events like the all-star basketball game and talent show, which the Black and White Ball hosted this weekend.
Evelyn Tillman, mother of two teens, thinks programs like Midnight Hoops are a good way to combat crime in Columbia. Her son, Mark Tillman, played in the all-star basketball game yesterday.
"The other day we had a good, non-violent game," she said. "These things are what keep kids busy and doing good things."
Linzie also said that activities that provide opportunities for young people can reduce youth crime, but she stressed the importance of supporting those programs with enough money.
"We need more positive events and support from the city with funding," Linzie said. "Funding is what makes these programs happen."
She also pointed out that the people creating criminal problems in town are a small portion of the greater whole.
"There are more good kids than the ones causing all the trouble," Linzie said.
James Gray, went to the picnic to meet up with his family after church. He thinks city leaders should listen to the perspective of actual youth.
"First of all, I think the city should implement a separate youth task force to get their point of view," he said. "We need their input too."
Supervising editor is Zachary Matson.