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State of emergency--stop the violence

Elinor Tatum | 4/12/2011, 4:38 p.m.

We all know that the term "long, hot summer" is not necessarily a statement about the weather climate, but rather a statement on the climate of our neighborhoods. Too often, as the summer starts to heat up, our young men and women take to streets en masse because it is cooler outside than in an un-air conditioned apartment.

The reason these kids are at home during the hot days of summer is because the programs that try to keep them off the street, employed and learning have all been cut to the point where so few of our young people are being served it is ridiculous.

Then you have the violence as these young people are left with fewer and fewer options--when summer youth employment is almost non-existent, the opportunities dwindle and, for some young people, gangs become the center of their lives. Gangs become their jobs. They get money and companionship from the people they associate with, and they get an education--an education on how to be a criminal.

We complain about the huge amount of kids on the street with no direction, no jobs, no education. We complain about the young people getting caught up in the prison system and coming out worse than when they went in.We complain about the violence on our streets. We mourn the innocent kids that are shot down in the prime of their lives just for being in the wrong place at the wrong time.We complain and complain and complain.

Now it is time for us to take action. We must do more than pay lip service to the issues that are affecting out youth. We must do more than say we need more services. We must come up with concrete plans to combat the issues that affect us.

I am calling on leaders from our community to come together to discuss what we can do to stop the cycle of violence that is in our community. I am calling on all of us to do our part and make a difference. There are solutions out there. We need to figure out alternatives to incarceration so that these young people are not sent into a system that just creates criminals where there was just a young person without direction before. We can and we must make a change.

We at the Amsterdam News are committed to expanding the conversation. Over the next few weeks, we will meet with officials and activists in an effort to find some real solutions. If you have ideas or suggestions, please e-mail them to me at info@amsterdamnews.com with "no more violence" in the subject line or mail them to "No More Violence," New York Amsterdam News, 2340 Frederick Douglass Blvd., NY, NY 10027.

No one person or entity can do this by themselves. We need the community to be a partner in all of our futures.