Youth advocate brings passion to work in cities


(Photo by Jabray Franklin -- Spokesman Staff)

Kelly D. Williams, whose Youth Advocate Programs help inner city youth and their families

Jabray Franklin, Spokesman Staff Writer

MIAMI — Spend a moment or so in the presence of Kelly D. Williams, and you can’t help but be impressed with her passion.

Williams, the national director of communications and public relations at Youth Advocate Programs (YAP), Inc., makes it a point to sit in the front row of panel discussions, like the one titled “The Collateral Costs of Long-Term Probation” conducted at the NABJ national convention here.

Williams, whose organization focuses on helping vulnerable and marginalized families as well as young adults and adults in inner cities like Baltimore, Washington and Philadelphia, said the source of her desire to help comes from some unknown place.

“I don’t know… I don’t know why God made me like this,” said Williams.

Williams sat focused on the 90-minute discussion where panelists Veronica Cunningham, CEO of the American Probation and Parole Administration, Connie Utada, associate manager for policy and public safety performance at the Pew Charitable Trusts, and Robert Listenbee, first assistant district attorney for Philadelphia, raised topics about incarceration in America and the effects it has on people and their everyday lives.

(Photo by Jabray Franklin — Spokesman Staff) Robert Listenbee, a Philadelphia assistant district attorney, speaking at an NABJ panel

Near the end, Listenbee said the prison system is basically “ a war on poor people,” adding that people get locked up only to be put on parole or probation with tough rules and stipulations, usually leading them back to prisons, separating them from their families more than once.

Utada said that the idea that being on parole is a privilege is false. Instead, Utada said, people should be looking for new innovative alternatives to probation, or even just advancing legislation that has been floating to reform the prison system.

(Photo by Jabray Franklin — Spokesman Staff)
Connie Utada, an official at the Pew Charitable Trusts, speaks at an NABJ panel

A contingent of Morgan State University students representing the School of Global Journalism and Communication are attending and covering the annual National Association of Black Journalists in Miami. This story is part of that coverage.