This week’s AmNews front page is meant to be jarring. And heart-wrenching. Does it make you catch your breath? It is supposed to.
“Ninety-nine percent of those people on the poster are from South Jamaica Queens. The only ones who aren’t are Biggie from Bed-Stuy and Tupac [claimed somewhat by Brooklyn], and I knew all of them,” said activist Erica Ford, CEO and founder of Life Camp Inc. “Most of these children were victims of gun violence, and the age range is 3 to 25.”
These children were the victims of drive-bys, targeted hits and stray bullets. “All of it is senseless violence,” said Ford. “These people are the reason why I am doing what I am doing now. Their deaths moved me. This youth violence has made me dedicate my life to building a better future for the children. That was why I formed Life Camp, which is a community-based nonprofit organization that wants to provide young people with the means, resources, tools, hope and vision to make the right choices and develop social skills to navigate problems and obstacles that they may face.
“Unless and until we address the undiagnosed depression in our community, we will continue to see acts of violence,” said Terrie Williams, founder of the Stay Strong Foundation and author of “Black Pain–It Just Looks Like We’re Not Hurting.”
“The answer is clear,” continued the Healing Starts With Us mental health advocate, “but no one is understanding the reason for the violence. Every time I hear of these horrors, I also hear people asking, ‘What’s wrong with these kids?’ They are a reflection of us. We as adults are separate from our own pain and are not getting help, and we pass it on directly to our children.
“All of us, through learned silence, learn to absorb shock and never speak of it. And so we self-medicate through violence, through drugs, alcohol, work, anything to not sit with the pain. We act out, we lash out. We want to blame the kids, but the answer is us. We all need help.”
An unnamed high-ranking source in the police department spoke with the AmNews about the shooting of yet another young Black male on Tuesday in Harlem by Marcus Garvey Park. As the youth is expected to survive his injuries, the law enforcement official opined, “My heart bleeds as I make a plea for you to remain safe and alert through this gun violence. Please speak to your family and friends and have them spread the message that our community needs a fair chance to live decently without fear plaguing us every time we walk the streets or turn on our televisions and radios. Please stress to them the fact that it is important to stand up for your rights.”
The NYPD official stated that people should not live in fear and speak up when necessary.
Ford suggested, “We need to implement a code of honor, an unwritten but clearly understood set of rules that we live by in the streets. The code that we live by is still in play and it means that we respect the laws by the people in the community. There has to be a body of people who young people can go to with beefs and contradictions that they can’t handle themselves.”
The Bury the Beef campaign focuses on a lot of beefs that get out of control and end up in these killings–like that of 13-year-old Kevin Miller. Said Ford, “These kids need someone who they can talk to. These kids have to know that they don’t have to or cannot shoot up the entire community because you are angry with one person or have an issue.”
Fresh off an anti-violence rally in Queens last Saturday, which called for an abandoned building to be turned into a youth center, Ford said, “Bury the Beef is national and is supported by T.I.’s King Foundation in Atlanta and the Black Star Project in Chicago.
“In Queens, Kings of Kings and Man Up Inc. in Brooklyn got $500,000 each to focus on this issue of stopping this mindless violence. The money came from the SNUG state project and was put into the Kevin Miller Anti-Violence Fund. The monies from the state must go to organizations directly connected to the brothers and sisters working with these kids on the streets.
“The gun fire in New York City is crazy, and the organizations on the frontline are the ones who need to be supported. Russell Simmons has come on to support us and has reached out to artists to come up with the anthem for the movement to help bring attention and resources to the street.”
For more information, contact www.burythebeef.com or call (917) 361-4376.