As Winter turned to Spring, East Flatbush was hit by a series of gun-related incidents, which resulted in several injuries and fatalities. Community stakeholders immediately rallied together in response. In partnership with law enforcement, local clergy formed the 67th Precinct Clergy Council and a street patrol. Assemblyman Nick Perry, State Senator Eric Adams, and Councilman Jumaane Williams denounced violence and offered resources to help keep the peace. Councilman Jumaane Williams held a street march along Church Avenue and a youth resource fair. Williams created Not in My Hood, a series of initiatives designed to help young people avoid violence.
Not in My Hood recently held a Youth Service Concert that was attended by 200 young people ages 13-22. This concert, which is part of the Youth Anti-Violence Initiative (YAVI) started by Council Member Williams, is the latest part of the ongoing effort to curb the youth violence that has affected Brooklyn communities such as the 45th District in recent months.
“One of the main concerns in our community is the lack of investment in our youth,” said Council Member Williams. “If we want them to make better life choices, we have to give them more positive options. That is what we hope this concert will address. By getting our youth engaged in this effort, they will build self-esteem, self-respect and a stake in their community’s future. We need to do something, because doing nothing is unacceptable. Hopefully, this concert will get bigger and better in the years to come.”
Youth participants had the opportunity to receive a free ticket to the concert after signing a one year pledge to anti-violence and completing at least eight hours of community service. Youth attendees enjoyed themselves in a safe, positive environment and agreed with the anti-violence message.
Clarence (12th grade) said, “I came to have fun. The anti-violence initiative is smart because they are too many shootings and killings and shootouts. This is good.” Shelley (11th grade) expressed his concerns: “It’s scary just coming outdoor. You can get killed. You try to do the right thing, but trouble will find you.” Esther, 8th grade: “I like the anti-violence message,” said Esther (8th grade), “We are not supposed to be violent. It’s not good for us.” Madea (8th grade) added, “Nobody should be violent.” Garth (11th grade) said, “People should stop violence so that we can have a better community and a better world.” Sabrina (9th grade) gave this assessment: “The anti-violence message is good for young people.” Ebony (11th grade) said, “I came to support Not in My Hood. The anti-violent message is good for young people to stay positive and give them some hope for a better tomorrow.”
Congresswoman Yvette Clarke told the youth, “You are to be commended. You are the leaders we have been waiting for.” As she joined the audience and rocked to the beats, Clarke said, “I am here to support something really positive, to give our young people a positive means to express themselves. I encouraged them to do everything they can to combat the violence in our community. Big ups to Councilman Jumaane Williams for his leadership an inspiring our young people to do great things.”
Michael Tucker, founder of Lay the Guns Down campaign, told the youth, “What I do is collaborate with celebrities and politicians through public service announcements to denounce the gun violence. Unfortunately, I got into this business when my oldest son was killed in 2005. He was a victim of gun violence. I am not going to let that stop me from saving you.”
Tucker came to “support the young people who are being devastated by all the violence. I started the ‘lay the guns down’ campaign to reach out to young men and women about the epidemic that is definitely destroying families around the world. I go to church and schools, anywhere. If I’m walking down the block and I see young men and women acting out, I let them know about what I experienced and why feel it’s important for them to get into positive things, instead of negativity, because it leads you to jail or in the ground. We are losing too many young men and women. They are our future. If they are getting killed at 14 and the killers are 18, where is our future?”
In collaboration with recording industry companies such as Sony and Ruff Ryders, Trucker said, “We let the world know that hip-hop stands behind this movement to end gun violence and violence in general.”
“The youth are responding well because they see we have created a good partnership with the hip-hop community,” said Tucker. “It doesn’t get any better than Ruff Ryders. This is a brand that is well known that was started as a motorcycle club and turned into a billion-dollar company. Look at all the hip-hop artist that came from Ruff Ryder: Swiss Beatz, DMX, Drag-on. A lot of big-name artists came from that company. To have them on board is saying to the hip-hop community we need to be mindful about what we say and what we do. It’s not about selling records. It’s more than that. It’s about the message, too.”
Regarding the anti-violence initiative, Pastor Gil Monrose said, “I think it is a step in the right direction. Councilman Jumaane Williams has made a commitment and some moves to work with the clergy in our community. The crime that we have in our community is so profound, so enormous, we need to have not only elected officials but also clergy to work with the community to get crime out of our community, if that can be accomplished. We are working towards saving those who need to be saved.”
“This initiative is new and different, said Pastor Monrose. “The messaging is there. We have to get the message to the people and make it effective to reach the young people where they are. We are giving the message to young people who will be the ambassadors of the anti-violence message. Many times we have young people who have friends who are involved in violence and crime but who don’t have the strength to tell them to stop doing it.”
Internationally known reggae artist Ed Robinson said he came to participate because, “I live in Brooklyn. This foolishness can happen to anyone of my kids. My kids go to school here. I have to participate. The young people get the message of anti-violence through the music just like they get the message of violence through the music. Don’t underestimate young people; they are very smart. It is the responsibility of artists to carry the message of peace and nonviolence. Not enough is being done. We are doing our part.”
Ruff Ryders business consultant Geoffrey Atkins said, “We always believed in working with our youth. We always have youth interns. We mentor our youth. We are very active in Yonkers where we are based, and all over the city.”
Ruff Ryders has a division called Lifestyles that has 300 chapters across the country with 30,000 members. “If there are troubles or issues anywhere, many times our chapters and our members get involved in their community and try to help. We’ve always done community service. As a black-owned company, we’ve always believed in giving back,” said Atkins. “It’s particularly important now, because we are the only black-owned music company left in the United States. Everybody else is owned by somebody else. We are totally independent. All of our family is active in the business. It is important that we give back to the community.”
Councilman Williams has committed to stay connected with the participating young people through social networking, including Facebook, Twitter, e-mail and video conferencing. There, the office will provide educational, recreational and employment information and opportunities, as well as feedback to the questions and concerns of the young people accessing those resources. For more information, interested youth can check www.NotinMyHood.net.