“Those men who are out there taking lives, we need you to step up! Take the popularity out of the negativity.”
This is the message Shanduke McPhatter, a former member of the New York Bloods gang, delivered to gunmen at a rally in Brooklyn, pleading with them to stop the senseless killings. “It’s time for our kids to feel safe on the streets!” he declared.
McPhatter, who is the founder and executive director of Gangstas Making Astronomical Community Changes, a nonprofit that aims to prevent youths from going down the same path he did, was among dozens of Brooklyn youths, parents, anti-gun violence activists and city elected officials at the fourth annual “Not in My Hood” march last Saturday to mark the beginning of Gun Violence Awareness Month across the city.
The march came a month and two weeks after 13-year-old Gama Droiville of Brooklyn was hit in his right eye by a stray bullet fired by a 21-year-old gang member, who is now facing charges. Droiville was the grand marshall of the march.
The march ended at Droiville’s school, Meyer Levin Junior High School, where a resource fair convened for youths to learn more about anti-gun violence, job opportunities, summer youth programs and other educational resources. The march was spearheaded by Brooklyn Councilman Jumaane Williams as part of his ongoing effort as co-chair of the City Council’s Gun Violence Task Force “to raise awareness of the things we’re trying to do and to ensure that we stop the violence that has been going on.
“Unfortunately, statistics from the NYPD show that shootings are spiking up,” Williams said. “We must not accept that since it’s getting warmer, violence is going to increase. We’re also asking the state to pass legislation, including the domestic violence bills and microstamping, that we believe will help suppress the flow of guns to New York City,”
Joining Williams at the event were City Council Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito and New York City Comptroller Scott Stringer, who both vowed to help put an end to guns that are going into communities.
Stringer said that his office has been calling on Clayton Williams Energy, an independent oil and gas company that operates primarily in Texas, Louisiana and New Mexico, to disclose its political spending, because, reportedly, it is one of the largest companies that contributes funds to the National Rifle Association of America.
“Why is an energy company giving money to the NRA?” Stringer questioned. “We told our portfolio companies they can’t invest in guns and expect to do business with the city. Not anymore. These companies must align with the interest of our people. That’s the national battle we’ll be waging state by state, company by company, because we’re not going to give them the opportunity to put more guns on the streets.”
In Albany on Monday, Brooklyn Assemblymember Karim Camara, chair of the New York State Black, Puerto Rican, Hispanic and Asian Legislative Caucus, and State Sen. Ruth Hassell-Thompson from the Bronx have both introduced a resolution that designates June as Gun Violence Awareness Month in New York . The goal is to create awareness to pass important gun safety legislation and to utilize various community resources to combat the epidemic of gun violence.
According to anti-gun violence activists, June is the month when gun violence typically increases.