Man who lost uncle, best friend, godson to gun violence trying to open safe space for kids

Kahlil Darden plans to purchase a building located at 200 Penn School Drive in Penn Hills, the location was once a former charter and elementary school that has classrooms, a gym, a cafeteria, and most importantly the space for kids to gather right in the heart of their community.

“Looking to really create a one-stop shop for our community,” said Darden, the founder & CEO of Young Black Motivated Kings & Queens (YBMKQ).

The 22-year-old activist knows the pain of gun violence all too well but says if it’s up to him the next generation won’t.

“Right now, young people are going from home to school to the streets and there is nowhere for them in between for them to go to where they feel safe,” Darden said.

Darden a 2019 Penn Hills graduate lost his uncle and best friend to gun violence.

Last year his 18-month-old godson too became a victim. The toddler was shot and killed in downtown Pittsburgh.

“The tragedies that I face keep me going,” shared Darden.

Pushing forward, Darden began his foundation, “Young Black Motivated Kings & Queens,” when his uncle died. When his best friend was killed, he went on to college. After the death of his godson, he announced plans to open a community center.

Transforming the abandoned school into a hub equipped with a daycare, summer programming, STEAM education, tutoring, open gym hours, and a co-working space, with culinary and trade development.

“I was here when the YMCA was here, and I was here when it got taken away and I saw the trajectory it had on the people that actually went there,” Darden said.

Darden said with the support of the Penn Hills mayor and community leaders he hopes to open the center this year and begin curbing gun violence one youth at a time.

“If I allow my pain to determine where I am going, I won’t get anywhere,” Darden said.

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