After walking on emergency “peace” missions with other adults through the streets of Harlem, Abdul Karriem saw the critical need to mobilize community men to address the violence among Black youth. He put out a call under the banner of a “Circle of Brothers”.

The community walks had been mainly attended by mothers whose sons or daughters had been victims of violence-the men were missing, according to Karriem. “I put out an email blast and went on WHCR radio last August, and just four men showed up for the initial meeting,” Karriem said as he passed out job opportunity notices near Harlem’s Lincoln projects last Thursday evening. The next time five more men showed up, and together they proceeded into the projects to pass out notices that held a glimmer of hope for a youth population that’s greatly overlooked.

But another group of volunteers were walking through the projects in the Bronx, passing out directions for what to do when stopped by the police. The “Circle of Brothers” has now grown beyond its Harlem base into the South Bronx, with Black men from other boroughs and New Jersey coming together for the sole purpose of saving Black youth from themselves.

Wali Abdul Noor of the Mosque of Islamic Brotherhood was recruited to the circle by Haja Worley, an urban gardening activist, who alerted him to the circle’s first Bronx meeting. “What I observed in that meeting was a fantastic, diverse group of conscious Black men from all levels of the Bronx and Manhattan communities,” Noor said. “There were elected officials, ministers, businesspeople, martial arts directors and former members of street organizations from the ’70s and ’80s, all together to answer the call to save our youth.”

Brother Shep, another volunteer and an original Black Panther, said “It’s better to be doing something about our problems than to be sitting on the sidelines, talking stuff and doing nothing.” Shep has done “walk-throughs” in Harlem and the Bronx and says the directions for what to do when stopped by the police are “snatched up” by adults and teens.

His observation was confirmed by a Lincoln project resident, Dorcell, who said that police are quick to beat up on the youth of the project, arresting them for the slightest infraction. She said her 17-year-old son has been stopped and frisked numerous times. She, along with several other mothers sitting on the benches facing a playground, said that the Lincoln project suffered from a lack of recreational activities and summer youth jobs, poor education and lack of unity among the residents.

In the Patterson projects across the Harlem River, the story was the same: Black youth with no summer jobs and, for high school graduates, no full-time employment, stop-and-frisk practices and no organized recreational programs.

Three teens, Jason, Troy and Joseph, had positive feedback on an encounter with a contingent of the Circle of Brothers, one of whom told them that he had done a 27-year bid in prison. “That was shocking to me,” 17-year-old Jason said. “That made me think, that’s a lifetime.”

His friend Troy stated that the men emphasized “being your own man-don’t be a follower.” The advice made him think of former friends who started out decent but had begun to act tough because they could get a gun and ended up incarcerated.

The Circle of Brothers is bringing together men whose aim is to help Black youth claim a self-identity based on knowledge of self, achievement and entrepreneurship. The circle is growing and developing creative approaches to solving the problems of youth violence. The call is now out for folks who have experience in mediation and can teach others. For more information, visit www.circleofbrothers.org.