By Mary Alice Miller
Shots rang out Sunday, disrupting a tranquil summer evening. Six individuals, including 2-year-old Ariyanna, were shot in a drive-by shooting. Ariyanna’s father, 25-year-old Michael Prince, 13-year-old Kentrell Simpson and three other victims had non life-threatening injuries. Doctors operated on Ariyanna’s leg on Monday. The shooting was an apparent gang-related retaliation for an earlier shooting. None of the victims were the intended targets of the shooter, who is still on the loose.
“I just want this to come to an end,” said Lederia Hinton, grandmother of the shot 2-year-old and mother of child’s father, who was also shot. “My granddaughter doesn’t even know what happened to her. My son didn’t even know they got shot. He shielded her and threw her on the ground, and didn’t realize that he or his daughter was shot. It’s crazy out here.”
“We are saying the city and the state can commit immediately at least $2 million to those organizations that are working to stop the violence in the communities,” said Assemblyman Karim Camara, Chair of NYS Black, Hispanic and Asian Legislative Caucus. “We are also saying that in the next budget cycle, we are asking for at least $50 million in NYS for urban and rural communities to emulate what President Obama is doing on the federal level called Promise Neighborhoods. Promise Neighborhoods, modeled after Geoffrey Canada’s organization, deals with a child before they are born, and then from 0-18. We need a commitment of resources for the 16-24-year-olds in our communities. Invariably, if you hear about a shooting or act of violence, invariably it’s a male, more increasingly a female, roughly between 16 and 24, a young African-American or Latino shooting, killing or stabbing another African-American or Latino.”
“We are here as elected officials to say this is not just a Brownsville issue or just a Brooklyn issue. We can’t keep coming after a shooting, and police blaming elected officials, and the marches, the vigils. We need that,” said Camara. “But we have to come up with a comprehensive strategy to stop the violence in our communities. We are here to say the city and state are not doing enough. We need a greater commitment of resources for underserved communities. I can guarantee you, this problem that we are dealing with is tied to failing schools in our communities, it’s tied to the lack of resources and recreational opportunities in our communities, and it’s tied to the lack of employment opportunities in our communities.”
“This is a long-term problem. We are not going to solve it overnight. Studies have shown the only things that can abate the violence in the short-term are community organizations on the ground,” Camara said.
“You cannot starve a community then wonder why they are violently malnourished. There are basic resources that this community is not receiving. No one wants to talk about that. Everyone wants to talk about why we have gangs in our community,” said State Senator Eric Adams. “No one wants to talk about the gang of government that has starved Brownsville and the Brownsville’s of our city. The cut in funding is unacceptable. Denying people resources is a recipe for violence. We are not giving opportunities.”
Adams made it clear that the shooting was no excuse for overaggressive policing. “We hear all this talk about rethinking stop-and-frisk. Don’t mix this up,” Adams said. “No innocent child should have a person approaching them with a gun in their hand, whether that person is in blue jeans or in a blue uniform. Our innocent children should not be victims of senseless violence by men in baggy blue jeans and they should not be a victim of overaggressive policing by men in baggy blue uniforms. It doesn’t matter who is doing the shooting, it is time to stop.”
Assemblywoman Inez Barron, who was an assistant principal in a local school, witnessed the process of underfunding by the city and the state. “When you have children who don’t have something positive to occupy their time, but are idle, not involved in any educational, recreational, social or entrepreneurial ventures, those are the children who are drawn into a negative kind of expression of their ability to be creative,” said the Assemblywoman. “We are calling on the governor and mayor to put money now into an “emergency order” to fund those programs that are doing the work to prevent violence, and to plan now for the future so that those effective organizations on the ground will be funded and other programs will be established that will help our children become productive and creative in their communities.”
Assemblyman William Boyland, who experienced gunshots to his car as he was driving with his young son a few months ago, said he was not there as an elected official, but as a father and also as a victim of gun violence. “This neighborhood has been held hostage for quite some time by this underculture. The elected officials on the city and state level are fighting hard to bring resources back to the community. We call on the mayor and governor to pay attention. We have children – ages 11 to 25 — committing most of the major crimes in this area,” said Boyland. “It is a travesty that we have to stand here to talk about this. I pledge my commitment to work with the other elected officials here and any activists to make sure those resources are coming home.”
Council member Darlene Mealy spoke of the efforts of the Black, Latino and Asian Caucus in the City Council. “We have allocated $4.7 million for a gun task force and we will try to make sure that resources come to our community,” said Mealy. “But we do need the governor and the mayor to put some extra money in it. Prevention is better than cure.”
“We just had thousands attend Old-Timers Week. We did not have one incident. Brownsville is alive. Contrary to what people say, we are a unified community who love each other,” she said. Mealy noted that there is news coverage when there is a shooting, but no media covered Old-Timers Week, an entire week of festivities. “Four lanes of Linden Blvd. blocked off for 5 blocks,” said Mealy. “You tell me that is not newsworthy? Something is wrong with the media.”
Rev. Stephanie Bethea of WET TEARS Ministry and the NYPD Clergy Council Task Force said she “would like to see more women come out and voice their opinions and possible solutions and ideas as to what we can do to try and get a handle on this situation. We are the maternal forces in the community. We need to be heard as well. We are the mothers of the children who are being shot. They have mothers and the ones who are doing the shooting have mothers.” A mother and a grandmother, Bethea said, “it’s getting to be a bit much in the community. Women, I am encouraging you to come out. Speak out about this. Take a positive stand on this matter so that we can get this situation under control.”
Carolyn Faulkner, member of Community Board #5, NYPD Brooklyn Task Force and a great-grandmother said, “Being involved in the community is very important. I really feel the pain because I think about my grandchildren playing in the park or when I take them out. It is something for us to worry about. We have to not think about ourselves, but we the people. We have to come together as a group so that we can do things better. It’s up to the women, yes, but it’s also up to the men. Men and women, mothers and fathers have to come together because it’s our children. It’s about time that we start joining together so that we can make things work.”
“These guns are not supposed to be in our community,” said Tony Herbert. “We have to save the lives of these young people and we are failing them because we are not doing what we are supposed to do. Elected officials, yeah, show up for the cameras, then show up on the street so that we can get out here and make sure that we ensure the safety of these young people.”
State Senator Malcolm Smith spoke of the extraction of economic activity from distressed communities where the shootings are occurring. “I believe there is a clear correlation between the economic incentives in a neighborhood that is thriving and crime. When you start taking money out of a neighborhood, when you take jobs out of a community, you take the heart of a community out, you take the spirit of that person and the children in that family start to feel as though if that person can’t have a job and survive then I have to go out on my own,” Smith said. “It becomes a domino effect. There is a direct relationship between economic justice, economic development and crime in a community. One cannot get around that.”
Just Sunday morning, Senators Eric Adams, Dan Squadron, Malcolm Smith and Brooklyn DA Charles Hynes actually drove right up to the borderline of the Bronx and Yonkers with a high-powered weapon in their vehicle. “We basically demonstrated you can bring a high-capacity gun with magazines of 30 and 40 bullets right into NYC. The challenge is NYC has a law that bans that, but the rest of the state does not,” said Smith. “We are calling for a ban of high-capacity magazines (in a bill sponsored by Adams). We had physical magazines with us – 30-40-caliber. It was unbelievable that we could drive down to the border and actually walk down Broadway with the gun. Hopefully, we will get the word out to the public to support the effort that Sen. Adams is doing.”
Smith said high-capacity multi ammo clips are not used for hunting. “No one hunts with an automatic weapon that has 30-40 bullets. You are not shooting deer with that kind of weapon. Those are assault weapons that you use for war. We can’t have war on the streets of NYC. That is why we want it banned throughout the entire state,” said Smith.