Hanging out: Young people's worries and tactics to stay safe
Written Cyril Josh Barker | , Reported | , Amsterdam News Staff | 7/28/2011, 11:54 a.m.
As we pass through the sweltering days and nights of another summer, young people continue the usual rituals of hanging out with friends at parties and outdoor events across the city on weekends and during the evening hours.
However, coupled with the pleasant idea of spending time with friends is a sense of fear that lingers for Black and Brown youth and their parents. The threat of violence is playing a role in where and how they spend their time.
News of violence at house parties and outdoor events seem to be an all-too-familiar scene in communities of color every summer. One of the most recent incidents this year is the shooting death of 27-year-old Nicholas Telemaque, who was shot in the torso after leaving a nightclub in Flatbush, Brooklyn.
Telemaque, a cousin of hip-hop superstar Nicki Minaj, was pronounced dead at Kings County Hospital. No arrests have been made in the shooting. Like many people his age, Telemaque was simply hanging out with friends, having a good time.
A similar incident recently happened in Harlem at a party on 119th Street and Lenox Avenue. A 15-year-old has been jailed on attempted murder charges after he allegedly shot another teen.
"Any given Thursday, Friday or Saturday night into Sunday, kids are [out] from 9 p.m. to 11 p.m., when they are getting high and drinking," said community activist Pastor Vernon Williams. "Parties can be fine when they are done responsibly and appropriately supervised."
But not everyone's intentions are positive. Williams added that kids set up a time to brawl or hold flash mobs after getting high and drinking. Using the Internet and social networking websites like Facebook and Twitter, times and locations are posted, usually with altercations scheduled for 2 a.m.
Social networks have become the source of events and more negative conflicts. On Facebook, event pages can be made to invite friends to places instead of calling people or talking to them in person. When creating an event page, teens are sometimes not careful about controlling who can attend and end up inviting non-friends to gatherings.
And Facebook has also become a place where conflicts emerge-common issues on the site include friends cheating or being cheated on and name-calling. Once these conflicts begin on Facebook and Twitter, issues go from online to violent face-to-face confrontations that can happen at social gatherings.
Harlem teen Latehsha Vargas, 18, is a typical youngster who is into basketball and shopping with her friends. But she said that when she's hanging out she often gets concerned about her surroundings.
"One of my biggest fears is not coming back home to my family," she told the AmNews. "If police aren't there, people create a reason for police to come. Once you step out of your door, you hardly ever know the next possible thing that can happen to you.
"The biggest problems are gangs, drugs, guns and sex," she said. "Time has changed. Even though there are some older generations trying to help bring respect back to the communities around the world, there are more young people who have to be the positive change instead of the negative."