Standing up against gun violence rally march 21 (36622)

Bang bang bang. Shots fired yet again. Week after week after week, from city to city all across the country, the sounds of gunfire have become all too familiar. Babies, young children, mothers, fathers, grandparents–all are turning into victims of vicious shootings that are literally killing us as a community.

Enough is enough. I’m tired of burying people and I’m tired of attending funerals. It’s time we reclaim our streets and our neighborhoods from the lost souls who have us living in fear. It’s time we let our presence be visible and set a tone that we are in America and not a warzone like Iraq or Afghanistan. It’s time we Occupy the Corners.

After a successful strategy meeting on Monday at National Action Network’s House of Justice in Harlem, N.Y., elected officials, clergy and concerned members of the community organized a plan of action to turn the tide against the rampant violence plaguing our communities. Beginning Aug. 17, from 11 p.m. to 1 a.m. every Friday, Saturday and Sunday night (for a period), we will take a literal stand on corners in the most troubled areas throughout the city of New York. Occupy the Corners will place an organized group of folks on these distressed corners to a.) stand as symbols of positivity, b.) engage with people from the community to figure out what their needs are, c.) build trust between us and the various unsettled areas and d.) begin to establish order on the streets.

When I was a kid, if I acted up in school, my mother would go to class and sit next to me for several days, embarrassing me in front of everyone. At the time, I didn’t fully understand it, but now I know that it was a vital lesson for me to understand that bad behavior would not be tolerated and that my family was willing to help if I couldn’t control myself.

The Rev. Al Sharpton and National Action Network have also called for a meeting with New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg to seek methods of funding many of the great grassroots efforts out here working daily to curb the violence. The fact remains that numerous organizations are on the ground in our communities, but they don’t receive the sort of monetary support that for-profit and many other nonprofits receive. If our leaders truly want to resolve the problem of gun violence and murders, they should put their money where their mouths are. These grassroots organizations are doing the work that most of us will never do when they deal with kids who are in dire situations. Sometimes they are literally the only thing left between the finger and the trigger.

In order to save our youth, we must do more than provide lip service. Kids today not only need positive influences in front of them–they need jobs, mentors and recreation. And though it is rarely discussed, many of our precious young people–and oftentimes their parents–need mental health facilities to provide guidance and therapy to find the source of their pain. Imagine if gunshots and dead friends became a normal part of your life, you would need mental health services as well. We need an emergency response plan; further punishment will accomplish nothing.

Day in and day out, we hear the horrific stats of innocent victims across the country. This weekend, in the city of Chicago alone, five people were killed and at least 29 others wounded in acts of violence. Just last week, I planned the funeral of 4-year-old Lloyd Morgan Jr. of the Bronx, who was gunned down while watching a basketball game in a park with his mother. My heart can’t take it anymore. I cannot look into the eyes of another mother as she buries her baby. I’ve been very open about my own pain of losing the father of my son years ago when he was shot dead, and if I can spare someone else from ever going through that agony, I won’t hesitate.

But every time shots are fired, I feel my son’s father die all over again. Please, please help me stop going through this pain. It’s like a nightmare and I can’t wake up.

Join Occupy the Corners in an attempt to save our babies. Whose streets? Our streets!