Gang Violence Meeting: Full of Promise and Progress

Last night, State Senator James Sanders, Jr. and NYC Councilman Donovan Richards co-hosted an informative community meeting about gun and gang violence. Alongside them were Captain Craig Adelman and Deputy Inspector William P. Wynne from the 100th and 101st police precincts, respectively.

Held at the Macedonia Baptist Church on 67th Street, moderators for last night's meeting strongly emphasized that the space would welcome passionate questions, so long as civility was maintained. Furthermore, elected officials especially highlighted the need for concrete and tangible solutions, rather than vague pronouncements that are normally characteristic of open meetings.

What was especially unique about last night's meeting, was the prolific numbers of new faces in the room. Residents from developments such as Arverne by the Sea, and small business owners, were some of the estimated 100 attendees. The new inclusion of fresh perspectives was a welcome change.

Last night's meeting centered on gun violence, but quickly moved onto gang violence. As law enforcement representatives detailed, most shootings were directly related to some form of gang activity. With this context in mind, officials, representatives, and residents alike began speaking about youth issues.

One resident vocalized the need for the peninsula's spiritual leadership to be more actively involved in youth development. Others suggested that a curfew be implemented to ensure that young people are not out after hours. A common thread amongst many statements was that gang violence is not solely a youth issue, but a parenting issues as well.

Although residents detailed some comprehensive approaches to battling gun and gang violence, very few spoke about how to engage with youth... not just talk at them. As an organization, we felt that this disconnect was paramount in why youth-adult relations are so fractured in the community.

With this in mind, we reminded community stakeholders that we are the only youth-led organization in Rockaway, and one of the largest in the city. We spoke from personal experience; gang violence directly touches as and that it's instrumental that we be involved in any action-planning surrounding the issue. Furthermore, we highlighted how our community garden helps tackle some of the root causes of gang activity, by way of professional development, financial management, and customer service.

Finally, we put out a call to action amongst community stakeholders. As we're developing a youth resource guide replete with all youth-related services in Rockaway, we need open channels of communication between government officials and agencies, community-based organizations, spiritual entities, and concerned residents. Together, we will develop a comprehensive list of youth-related services and resources which will be made public and easily accessible through our website, in print, and social media platforms.

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Last night's meeting was a breath of fresh air; a sentiment of selfless direct action was a positive addition to community organizing. We hope that last night's meeting can serve as an example and model of what civic engagement looks like.

ORIGINAL RELEASE DATE : Nov 14, 2014