2002-07-27 / Columnists

From the G-Man by Gary G. Toms


Who’s Got My Back?

I’m going to start this week’s column with a stern warning to all of you. This will probably be the most controversial and dangerous column that I have ever written, and I will NOT pull any punches. I will be putting myself in harm’s way, but if the rumors are true (that I am regarded as a leading figure in the African American community in Rockaway), then no one should expect anything less from me. When I’ve finished saying what I have to say, I will find out who’s got my back in the Redfern Housing Development, Edgemere, the Beach 41st Housing Development, Arverne, Ocean Village, and the Hammels Housing Development. I’m also looking for my people at the West end of the peninsula as well because when you get right down to it, what affects one area of Rockaway affects all of Rockaway. Let’s be clear about that. With that said, here’s the deal.

In recent weeks, people have approached me with some disturbing news about fights breaking out after many of the basketball tournaments sponsored by community organizations. What makes this situation even more disturbing is the fact that some really great young people, who are trying to do the right thing for themselves and the community, are getting caught in the crossfire.

As one person described it, "It was like watching the future B-ball stars at Rucker Park or West 4th Street in Manhattan. These cats were slamming the rim! We had players from Redfern, Edgemere, the 40’s, Ocean Village, and Hammels. We even had members of the white community (Belle Harbor and others) who wanted to be down with the tournament this year. The place was packed with parents, players, kids, grandmothers and other senior citizens. You give this tournament a few more years, and I predict that NBA scouts will be coming to Rockaway to look at these kids. This tournament is unbelievable. It’s helping to bring people together. Gary, it was so beautiful to see," he continued.

What was not beautiful was the fact that a few knuckleheads came to the games with a thug mentality and a desire to show the absolute worst side of communities of color. Rumors are circulating that the people causing the trouble belong to certain gangs that have taken root in the Rockaway community, and that they are battling members from other housing areas. Whether this is true or not does not matter. What does matter is that these jackasses are creating dangerous situations and people have gotten hurt as a result. I won’t stand for this nonsense!

Can you imagine players (great kids) going up and down the court worrying that something was going to happen to them? Moreover, the spectators, who came together from all over to celebrate the fact that we finally had something extraordinary for the youth to do, were now in a state of perpetual fear.

A spectator noted, "Law enforcement officers were there for most of the tournament, but when they left, that’s when the bull#$@% started. The police did their job, so I don’t blame them for the outcomes. I blame the fools who came specifically to cause trouble."

Another stated, "I felt so bad for the elders and for the little children that were there. The whole atmosphere changed, and it’s a damn shame. We are a better community than this, and we cannot allow thugs to take over something that is viewed as positive in the community. I’m sick of this, and we (as a community) have to do something to stop the madness."

There are those who are urging me not to write this column because if gang members are involved in these situations, they will not take kindly to me calling them out. As everyone knows, The Bloods, Crips and others are no joke! It’s a well-known fact that it would be foolish to piss them off, and they tend to go after those they feel have dissed them in some way. The G-man is well aware of this. You know what? I’m still going to say what I have to say. My martial arts instructor used to call me "Dragon" because he said I was fearless and full of spirit. So, there’s no way I’m going to back down from this ugly situation.

I want to speak to all the gang members, and all those little wannabes. Before you jump to me, or put out a hit because you feel I have "called you out", do me a small favor. Pick up this paper, and past issues, and look at my work. Respect the skills! Look at how I have tried to make the Rockaway community better, especially the Black community. This paper has never been "blacker", and The Wave, and Rockaway as a whole, is a hell of a lot better for it. Those who disagree with this fact can go and read the Forum Courier as far as I’m concerned.

You all (gang members) need to understand something. People fear you because of your reputation as thugs, killers and drug-dealers. One of the biggest reasons they fear you is because you’re black. History is a clear illustration of that fact! Hell, I’m almost 40, college educated, not a gang-banger, arrested twice (for social and political protesting) and certain people still act like they’ve got a problem with my "blackness." It was only last week that I walked by a car with a white family inside, and the father quickly activated the door locking system. How do you think that made me feel? I’m also from the projects, so if you think The G-man can’t relate to any Blood or Crips out there, you’re dead wrong!

I don’t know who thought it would be a good idea to disrupt something so good for the community, but it was not a wise decision. I know you guys are not stupid. You guys are not heartless. I know you have hearts because many of you have young kids of your own. You want to teach them right from wrong just like anyone else. You may have a different way of doing that from others, but if they grow up doing the right thing, that’s all that matters. Now, isn’t that right?

The tournaments in Rockaway may now be cancelled forever! The one great thing to bring these communities together, and offer some form of entertainment for our youth, may now be taken away. It does not make any sense to lose something this positive over "turf wars."

Let me say this to those coming into the community to start fights. Don’t come in as a threat to our community. Instead, come in and take care of the fools that threaten our community. If the gangbangers are involved to some degree, then I’ll say this to them. You all (The Bloods, Crips, Latin Kings, or any other gang for that matter) will gain a hell of a lot more respect if you would be willing to stand up and say, "You’re not doing that mess here. Not in our house, kid!"

I don’t know how they will react to this. I am not trying to start a rivalry between the projects in Rockaway, nor am I trying to get myself killed. I’m just a man with some years of martial arts experience, a compassionate and loving heart, and a need to fight against injustice, especially in the Black community. If The Bloods and others can’t see that, or don’t care to see it, then I guess I’m a dead man walking at this point. I’m not being overly dramatic in saying that. I know the violent history of these gangs, and they do not play! However, The G-man doesn’t play either, and I will fight to preserve the dignity and honor of our community, whether I’m at The Wave or I move on to greater opportunities. A man either has "ping-pong balls" or "grapefruits." Just call me "Mr. Tropicana!"

As an editor of one of the oldest newspapers in New York City (behind the New York Times and New York Post) I have written news stories that have affected the Rockaway community in one way or another. As an African-American editor, I have fought to present black people in Rockaway, and others, in a more positive light. So, gangbangers, if you understand my role, as an editor and as a man, then you understand why The G-man is challenging you to help stop the madness and make our communities better.

See you next week. Count on it!

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