Community rallies against violence (163473)
Credit: Lem Peterkin photo

As Not Another Child hosts their National Day of Remembrance for Murder Victims on Friday, Sept. 25 at City Hall (1 p.m.), communities grieve the loss of eight more victims of violence just this past weekend. But A.T. Mitchell, CEO and founder of Man Up, demands that the city and the NYPD acknowledge and utilize “tested and proven effective methods that have reduced inner-city violence nationwide.”

Mitchell stated, “When you look at it from a statistical standpoint, there have been less murders and shootings than in the last 20 years. This is the positive within the negative.

“We say that while Mayor Bill de Blasio is praising the NYPD for the ‘safest summer in 20 years,’ we say, ‘Not by yourself.’ They didn’t reduce crime without the impact of the work of community action groups like Man Up, Life Camp, Street Corner Resources and all the community patrols, violence interruption and conflict resolution tactics and youth initiatives we implement.

“Why would the mayor give credit to the NYPD and not community groups working tirelessly to bring down crime? We understand that he is trying to rebuild his relationship with the NYPD, but he is doing it at the expense of the community. Of course the NYPD will run with it. But when you give no credit to the community groups and volunteers, that’s when you create separatism. We are well aware of the push for keeping the prison industrial complex running, and it begins in the streets of the city.

“The mayor really should extend credit to these brave people going out on the streets trying to protect the community. But we know that this is a very sensitive time as we approach 2016, and he is looking towards 2017.”

“Violence interruption providers are an important partner in driving down violence in New York City, and working closely with these community groups is one of the Mayor’s priorities,” said Sarah Solon, Chief External Strategy Officer for the

Mayor’s Office of Criminal Justice. “This year alone, the de Blasio administration has invested nearly $20 million dollars in community anti-violence groups, expanding funding for violence interruption and resident engagement in the 17 precincts accounting for 51 percent of shootings citywide. We believe that strong and safe neighborhoods are created by residents in partnership with City government, and are committed to funding the credible messengers and resident-driven initiatives that make violence reduction possible.

The NYPD did not respond to a request for comment regarding Mitchell’s allegation.

Meanwhile, eight families are reeling from the senseless loss of loved ones this past weekend to violent crime.

Saturday afternoon, Julio Yasser, 36, was shot in the torso at 5 Church Ave. in Brooklyn. Saturday night, Kevin Brye, 33, was shot in the head at East 115 Street and First Avenue in East Harlem. He was pronounced deceased at Metropolitan Hospital. The same night, two people were shot in front of 724 E. Tremont Ave. in the Bronx, a 25-year-old man and a 34-year-old woman. Both were shot in the torso. The man, Nestor Suazo, succumbed to his injuries.

Sunday, three people were shot to death on Fleet Walk in Clinton Hill, Brooklyn: Calvin Clinkscales, 43, Lacount Simmons, 39, and Herbert Brown, 76. On the same day, David Hooks, 24, was shot at East 194th Street and Briggs Avenue in the Bronx. Monday, at approximately 1:30 a.m., 39-year-old cab driver Barry Mamadou was shot in the head as he sat in his green Lincoln Town Car at East 189th Street and Beaumont Avenue in the Bronx.

As the Nation of Islam puts its collective energies into organizing the 10.10.15 Justice or Else rally on the 20th anniversary of the Million Man March in Washington, D.C., Minister Abdul Hafeez Muhammad, Minister Louis Farrakhan’s East Coast representative, warned that although the Black community should not shirk the “burden of confronting the violence perpetrated by ourselves on ourselves,” the nation’s politicians and governments have set the tone.

“You are going to have gangsters in the street when you have gangsters in the government,” Muhammad said. “At the Republican presidential candidate debate they were all talking about war and bombing Iraq. So it should not surprise them when the violence they speak of so freely is enacted on the streets of America.”

Muhammad said that the young people have to turn their anger and frustration not inward, “but the ‘or else’ of Justice or Else is about turning our attention to building up our communities and taking a stand against those who have perpetrated and benefited form the poor conditions in the inner cities across this county.”

Amid the recent outbreak of gun violence in Brooklyn and in many parts of the city, including the tragic shooting of Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s aide Carey Gabay, U.S. Reps. Hakeem Jeffries and Yvette Clarke took to the steps of City Hall to outline federal action that should be taken.

The centerpiece of their proposal is increased funding for the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives, the federal agency charged with enforcing the nation’s gun laws and combating illegal gun trafficking into states such as New York.

The upcoming fiscal year begins Oct. 1. Over the next few weeks, Congress must fund the federal government, or it will shut down. In this regard, Clarke and Jeffries are urging President Barack Obama to draw a line in the sand and press Congress to fully fund the ATF.

“House Republicans want a fake fight over defunding Planned Parenthood,” said Jeffries. “We’re going to give them a real fight with respect to fully funding our nation’s gun violence prevention efforts.”

Jeffries and Clarke wrote to Obama, asking him to help secure an additional $60 million above and beyond what is allocated in the House spending bill for the ATF. The amount is necessary to fully fund the agency as it addresses the gun-violence epidemic in America.

They also want the president’s My Brother’s Keeper initiative brought to Brooklyn as part of an ongoing effort to provide young people with a positive alternative to the perils of the streets.

“We cannot allow the public health crisis of gun violence to continue,” said Clarke. “Every year, the United States has more than 30,000 preventable deaths as a result of guns—deaths that real limits on the trafficking of illegal guns would substantially reduce.”

Brooklyn Borough President Eric Adams held a press briefing this week about gang behavior for community leaders in Brooklyn in response to what he believes is a deadly trend in borough-wide violence.

Representatives from the NYPD, the Department of Corrections and the Department of Probation were present to educate local stakeholders on recognizing early signs of gang involvement, understanding key details about gang culture and knowing what to do if one suspects a loved one is involved with a gang.

Adams and others, including former gang members, spoke about the importance of a proactive approach in addressing gang violence and advancing public safety.

Mitchell said, “We have been speaking about the public health crisis which is inner-city violence for years, and we have gone into the streets as violence interrupters to bring peace to our neighborhoods—with documented positive results. So we don’t like it when the mayor and the police act like they did it all by themselves. We have done a lot of violence reduction, and we as a community don’t give ourselves enough credit.”

The East New York-based activist continued, “Yes, despite the reduced stats citywide, it was a very bloody weekend—a very bloody summer. For all the families of those people who have been killed, we take it very seriously. We have to treat it holistically. Collectively, we have a lot of things at work helping drive down violence in the areas where it is prone, like the 75th and 73rd precincts. Man Up is working in target areas to bring down crime. A lot of times that has not been seen or reported.

“I don’t condone violence. It is heart wrenching because it means that we still continue to be behind the 8 ball. My heart goes out to the victims’ families. Those communities in which the killings happened need to rise up and organize themselves as a community to demand and then mobilize the resources that have been proven and tested to drive down crime in this city.”

Mitchell said organizations such as his, Erica Ford’s Life Camp and Iesha Sekou’s Street Corner Resources need increased funding and support. “If we continue to garner support from new and old stakeholders to spread the success of our work in more parts of the city,” he suggested, “we can see more of a reduction in violent crime throughout the city, by employing the same community people to get the additional resources to the high-risk members of our community.”

Daniel Goodine, founder of Brownsville’s Men Elevating Leadership, said, “To all the groups that have worked in the streets and in the village at large I pay respect to, we have a great job to do in this city. It is far greater than the reports on crime will ever show.”

Goodine was speaking after a peace march through Brooklyn from Bedford-Stuyvesant Restoration Plaza last week. Organizers and attendees included 500 Men Making a Difference, Man Up, Chris. S. Owens Foundation, Save Our Streets,Wheelchairs Against Guns, Coalition for Section 3 Employment and Not Another Child.

Goodine continued, “We have allowed those in the system to paint this picture of better times are here, but the real issue for the groups that take the time out to support the hood is, why can’t we get the support we need to combat the ills we fight so hard to stop? Being in Brownsville, the needs for policing of oneself is key. ‘Each one teach one to reach one’ must be the drive. We have the blueprint, the power and tools. We must not allow anyone to tell us that the work we are doing and have done doesn’t matter.”