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By Kelly Mena
Antigun violence advocates and community members united in a Peace and Prayer Ceremony to highlight the unexpected murders of two young women in Bedford-Stuyvesant last night.
The emergency rally brought out more than a hundred attendees to the Stuyvesant Gardens Houses on Gates Avenue to celebrate the lives of Chynna Battle, 21, and Shaqwanda “Q” Staley, 29, who were gunned down last Thursday when gunmen opened fire in the crowded courtyard.
The double murder has caused many in the community to question the antiviolence prevention tactics of the area, particularly among the youth population.
Mozelle Brown,56, Battle’s mother, believes the death of her child was not in vain but an educational opportunity for her community–calling her daughter a “martyr” in the fight against gun violence.
“They are symbolic in bringing attention to what is going on around here. He [the Lord] chose those two [Battle and Staley], those two! Those two young ladies were the special ones, they were the ones who paved the way for this to happen. It’s grabbing our attention now and it should have been grabbed a long time ago,” said Brown.
Brown went on to call upon the community to unite and work together in order to prevent future gun deaths and to be vocal about any suspicious activity in the neighborhood.
Democratic District Leader Geoffrey Davis was quick to point out the need for more youth programming in the area to stop the tide of violence and noted the need for the proposed recreational center as part of the controversial Bedford-Union Armory Redevelopment plan.
“It’s just us mourning again and again and again and we need resources in our community to stop this. Our young people need jobs, our young people need a place to go. We’ve got to turn this into action and I’m trying to do that with the recreational center at the Bedford-Union Armory,” said Davis.
This theme was taken further by community member and preacher Valerie Ferguson, 51, who demanded that people start speaking up about any suspicious activity in the community.
“This is where I live at, this is where I raised my kids at, this is where I’m raising my grandchildren at, this is where I go to church at, this is where I cook out at, this is where I hold my brothers and sisters at, and you are not going to destroy my neighborhood!” said Ferguson.
Some other attendees alluded to the lack of local crime prevention efforts by residents, starting a slogan of “See something, say something”, to motivate neighborhood residents to speak out against any crime or suspicious activity in the area to the New York Police Department.
According to Battle’s cousin, who was one of the approximately 20 people in the courtyard on the night of the incident, there were police officers already at the scene of the killings. It is reported they were responding to a different situation when the shooting took place.
A video surveillance camera caught four men entering the courtyard just before the shooting who are believed to include the gunmen. According to police, no arrests have been made as of yet but detectives claim they are close due to an influx of tips from the community.
Battle and Staley were hanging out in the courtyard behind 760 Gates Avenue near the corner of Stuyvesant Avenue at about 9:30 p.m. on July 13 when gunfire broke out, striking Battle in the head and Staley in the back. Both victims were rushed to area hospitals where both were later pronounced dead.
The two young women were longtime neighborhood residents. Battle grew up in the neighborhood and lived in a nearby building where she was raising her three-year-old daughter Amelia. Staley grew up about a mile away near the corner of Hancock Street and Howard Avenue, and although she had recently left the neighborhood to attend college, she remained a beloved figure who frequently came back to visit. Both burials are scheduled for later this week.
“This right here is the tipping point. I’m tired of being sick and tired. I can’t fathom the idea of one of my daughters being executed and that right there was what that was for no reason. Those women had a right to live,” said Bruce Green, 50, President of the Brooklyn Anti-Violence Coalition.
According to Green, many groups supported the rally effort, including NYPD’s Neighborhood Coordinating Officer team for the area, the Stop the Violence organization, local residents and community and faith leaders.