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First anti-gang violence education clinic in Harlem

DAA'IYA L. SANUSI Special to the AmNews | 6/14/2011, 1:42 p.m.
First anti-gang violence education clinic in Harlem

"There are no closed doors in my mother's house" was one of the first lessons offered by Iesha Sekou, executive director of Street Corner Resources during the first annual Assemblyman Keith L.T. Wright Anti-Gang Violence Education Clinic, organized by Wright and his chief of staff, Jeanine Johnson, and aide, Maurice Cummings.

The clinic was organized as an emergency response to the unprecedented murders engulfing the partially gentrified community of Harlem and was held at the Adam Clayton Powell Jr. State Office Building on May 18.

Wright, who has served the Harlem community for 19 years, is taking bold steps for the people who have been left out of the wave of ownership, academic privilege and job success that have transformed many pockets of Harlem-the people left behind in the projects and nearby areas.

"In New York City there are roughly 2,500-3,000 gang members, with the majority in northern Manhattan-over 50,000 gang members are in New York State. Nearly 12 percent of Black and Latino youth have been reported as having joined a gang and they are becoming more and more dangerous," explained Wright.

"We are here to learn how to end the plague of gangs in our neighborhoods," he continued. "How to identify the signals that your children could be involved in gangs; successfully intervening if your loved one is in a gang. We are here to offer successful prevention tools and methods to keep gangs from further infiltrating our schools, our communities and homes."

The Rev. Vernon Williams, co-founder of the Save Our Children Project and member of the Harlem Clergy and Community Leaders Coalition presented several alarming stories of young people who might have been spared had it not been for "KKK." "Some people think about white sheets and burning crosses when I say 'KKK,' but it's a mentality that says it's OK to kill Black and Brown babies: 'Kids Killing Kids.'"

As examples of this mentality he named Gregory Willis Jr., Georgie White, Jeffrey Bradshaw, Cheyenne Baez, Tywan Corbett Brown, Chris Booba Owens, Scottie Scott and 100 other young people under 22 years of age who have been killed.

"One of the astonishing things about last year [2010] is that 90 percent of the people murdered were 22 years of age or younger," recounted Williams.

"When our kids see us out there showing that their lives have value to us, their behavior changes-but when we're not there, they just do whatever they want to do. Being a part of this will save lives," said Victor Pena of the 28th Precinct of the NYPD, who spoke on behalf of Inspector Rodney Harrison.

Wright acknowledged Iesha Sekou as an impactful community servant. During her educational prescription for saving lives, she confided, "All is not lost; this is not a hopeless condition, but an exorcism must be done." She laid out the following critical steps:

"When your child's behavior changes, seemingly overnight, and your child no longer listens to you, is not cooperative and does not follow instructions, this may signal that the child is taking instructions from a gang, their new family.

"The colors that your child used to wear were bright colors, a variety of different colors; now everything is red or blue or green and yellow, and the backpack is now "Tagged Up." Your child may now be wearing beads, sometimes in the form of a cross. If you ask for the beads and your child becomes unusually upset, it is probably not about the style," Sekou warned.

She advised parents to know their child's "Circle of Influence"-his or her closest friends. And parents must want to know if the friends are listening to and obeying their parents, doing their school work, if they have an appropriate curfew and how to contact them and their parents.

For more information on the Save Our Children Project, call (917) 545-4613.