Shanduke McPhatter is pacing next to a Brooklyn mall that was near the site of a recent shooting, shouting into a mic and imploring passing shoppers to listen to what he has to say about two topics he’s familiar with: gun violence and gang life.
“We’re out here for y’all because it’s your generation that we’re trying to save from dying from stray bullets,” he said before asking if a recent shooting that had taken place near Downtown Brooklyn’s Barclays Center and the mall was OK. When the crowd who was listening answered no, McPhatter added that in the aftermath of shootings, someone is “dealing with a trauma.”
“There’s somebody who can’t come over here no more and shop.” He said. “Do you know that?”
McPhatter is the founder and executive director of Gangstas Making Astronomical Community Changes, or G.M.A.C.C., a nonprofit anti-gang and anti-gun violence organization he started in 2008. Many of its programs focus on engagement with at-risk youth and mentoring them so that they can make the right decisions in life. G.M.A.C.C. is also involved in community engagement and anti-gun violence marches.
The group has the support of electeds such as council members Jumaane Williams, Darlene Mealy and Laurie Cumbo.
McPhatter finishes his speech and lets his fellow G.M.A.C.C. member, Aaron “Sledge” Jones speak.
“When has it ever been all right for an argument to turn into somebody ready to kill somebody? “asked Jones. “When is it all right that we can’t walk down the block and shop in peace and not worry about being shot?”
Like McPhatter, Jones is a former gang member who is trying to stop gang violence and get young people out of that lifestyle. During his speech, Jones also against the gangland concept of “op” or opposition, saying that seeing everyone as a potential threat just isn’t a way to live. “We’re all people,” he said. “People are not supposed to look at each other as opposition.”
According to the NYPD statistics, and Mayor Bill de Blasio, New York City’s crime rate has been declining in recent years and shootings were down 22 percent in the first quarter of the year. However, shootings still occur, such as one that happened last week near the Barclays Center, which resulted in a 50-year-old man being wounded. More recently, there was the shooting death of a 46-year-old man at a Crown Heights gas station.
In an interview with the Amsterdam News, McPhatter said that shootings still happen because “the mentality is not being focused on enough.”
He continued, “I said recently, ‘No matter what you build, if you’re not helping to mentor those who don’t understand what’s happening or don’t see a different way, [then] you’re going to have the same results.”
How about stopping guns from coming into our communities, the AmNews asked. McPhatter answered that this tactic wasn’t feasible because of the business that supports the gun industry. He said that along with providing more opportunities and jobs, communities should focus on getting the youth to turn away from gang-life by showing them “something different than the violence.”
“We just have to work on the individual with the gun and let them look at it differently,” said McPhatter.