Rock Safe Streets Presents: Holds Hands Around Rockaway

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In celebration of June being Gun Violence Awareness Month, Rock Safe Streets hosted a public demonstration and solidarity event called “Hold Hands Around Rockaway” on June 15th. Rock Safe Streets is a Sheltering Arms project and a site of the city-wide Cure Violence - Crisis Management System program. The goal of the event was to bring visibility to the community fight to reduce gun violence in the Rockaways and to provide a sense of unity between the burroughs in the fight, in order to create change for a better future. The event started with a rally, with food and games for the crowd, and speeches from community and organization leaders --- including a prayer from Reverend Grey, of Macedonia Baptist Church, who passionately asked that the youth of Rockaway who seem to be going down the wrong path “Put down the gun and pick up a book”.

In Rockaway, the streets Beach 54th through Beach 59th contain the highest density of gun violence in the area. Therefore it only made sense for the majority of the crowd to be in that area at Beach 57th, in a symbolic expression of solidarity. In a show of unity, the crowd formed a circle linked by holding hands and flyers which stated “Take Back the Streets - Restore peace in our community,” while blocking off part of the area. Rock Safe Streets program manager Rosalyn Mason led the crowd in chanting “Don’t Shoot - LIVE!,” followed by a moment of silence for those who have lost their lives due to gun violence.

Mason expressed the importance of the event for her, saying “June is gun violence awareness month, so we are out here to denounce gun violence and any other senseless violence. By holding hands shows unity, support for the community and for us to take back our streets.”

An organizer from Operation H.O.O.D, a Cure Violence site in Coney Island, said that he came out to the event to show that “there is unity between the burroughs.” He drew a direct connection between the visibility of the solidarity action in the streets and the work to change the hearts and minds of the “high-risk individuals” involved in gun violence, declaring “we’re out here to sensitize those who have been desensitized.”

Manuel Silva, Chief of Staff to City Councilman Donovan Richards, noted that there were a lot of young children at the event to witness the organizing, and expressed hope that the young activists continue such work in Rockaways and beyond. “It’s good that they are getting involved early because they’ll be the ones taking up these kind of activities when they get older. Hopefully, by the time they do get older these types of activities won’t need to take place because Rockaway won’t experience any gun violence.” said Silva.

Mason concluded by quoting her program’s founder, Mustafa Shaker, in declaring “From the community, for the community!” before helping to direct the crowd to the post-event barbeque.