Combine youth and violence and you have an irresistible headline for the major dailies. That mixture was also compelling for a number of Harlemites who attended the “Youth and Violence: Harlem and the National Crisis” seminar at the Schomburg Center last Friday. The seminar was part of the two-day conference, titled “We Demand Housing as a Human Right,” sponsored by the Harlem Tenants Council and its indomitable leader, Nellie Hester Bailey.
With a tight schedule in mind, moderator Iesha Sekou, founder of Street Corner Resources, kept things moving at a brisk but informative pace. And this was not an easy task given that the eight panelists had a lot of stories to share.
Rev. Vernon Williams, who has risked his life on the streets of Harlem attempting to bring peace and reconciliation amongst our disaffected youth, spoke of the need for others to join him in his challenging mission and ministry. “I spend many a night on the streets, hoping to stop the violence, seeking peaceful options for our youth,” said Williams before referring to his Perfect Peace Ministry.
Jackie Rowe Adams vouched for Rev. Williams’ dedication, though she too has been tirelessly involved in making our streets safer. “I know what it means to lose a child on these streets,” she began, citing her own son’s death. “Our group goes door to door talking to parents about keeping tabs on their children.” Adams, the founder of Harlem Mothers SAVE, and her wonderful voice can be heard not only through a megaphone but in front of a microphone.
“You gotta get involved,” charged Michael Tucker. “That’s what I’ve been doing now for several years.” Tucker, like Adams and Williams, is constantly on the sidewalks of our troubled streets as the head of his Lay Down the Guns organization.
Tucker, when asked about a remedy for the madness and violence among our youth, said, “We’ve got to give our young people something to do.” Explaining, “They have a lot of energy and curiosity, so we have to keep them busy doing some good things.”
Curtis Sherrod of the Hip Hop Culture Center concurred with Tucker. At the Hip Hop Culture Center, which is located at the Magic Johnson Theater, he has been dispensing exactly what he preaches. “And we promote a number of positive things at the Center,” he said. Their rap-a-thon is among several activities that has featured hundreds of youths.
Brother Beloved acknowledged his relationship with Rev. Williams, with whom he often works. “What I try to deal with is anger management,” he said. And that, he added, was no easy assignment for youth full of hostility.
Anger and frustration is something Shana Harrington has seen more than her share of. “Our youth need jobs more than anything, not guns,” she said, joining the panel as it came to an end.
Among Brother Shaka Shakur’s suggestions for removing the violence from the streets is counseling “before the shooting” begins. That recommendation resonated well with Lester Meldonado, who added that “networking and support measures” are absolutely indispensable when dealing with the current crisis in our community.
The exchanges were lively and brimmed with insight learned from people familiar with the both the theory and practice of peace and harmony down on our mean streets.