2004-09-24 / Community

Basketball Great Joins Councilman For Anti-Violence Rally

By Miriam Rosenberg

Bernard King signs autographs for the young people in the crowd.
Bernard King signs autographs for the young people in the crowd. Contributing Editor

NBA Hall of Famer Bernard King joined City Councilman James Sanders, Jr. at Sanders’ 1st Annual Youth Rally Against Violence called “Bridging The Gap” at O’Donohue Park in Far Rockaway on September 18.

“Our goal is to bridge the gap between teens and adults by impressing respect and understanding between generations that can ultimately bring about peace,” said Sanders in a press release.

Other goals are to find places where young people can go to enjoy themselves, and creating a youth congress.

Councilman Sanders huddles with some the youth volunteers, shortly before the rally begins.
Councilman Sanders huddles with some the youth volunteers, shortly before the rally begins. “[We want to create] a body where youth can communicate with themselves, find [their] leaders and communicate with leaders,” Sanders explained to The Wave. A body where young people can tell seniors what they want to happen.”

The rally, which began late due to morning wind and rain, ended after less than a half hour because of a teeming afternoon rain from the remnants of Hurricane Ivan.

Before Sanders called off the rally because of concern for the electrical equipment and those on stage with it, King had a chance to speak to the crowd.

King’s “words of wisdom” came from his own experiences. He spoke about being raised in a housing development in New York then being drafted by the NBA and then shattering this knee at the age of 28.

While doctors told him that his career was over, he worked five hours a day for two years in rehab, returned to the NBA and became an All-star again.

Just as he would not be denied returning to the basketball court, King would not let the rain stop him from finishing his words of inspiration to the youth of Rockaway. As many onlookers ran for cover from the rain, King stood at the edge of the stage and continued his speech.

“You will face obstacles. Don’t allow anyone to tell you that you can’t do what you want,” King said as he told the young people at the rally to keep reaching for their dreams. “Get an education, respect your parents, [get] mentors, set your goals and have a plan for what you want to do in life.”

King concluded by saying “We have to stop the violence and start loving one another. [That way] our future will be brighter.”

Vernell Robinson of Bridging The Gap explained the origins of the rally.

“Last year Councilman Sanders held a town meeting to stop the violence,” said Robinson. “From that we have been working to get other people involved to put an end to violence in the community.”

She told The Wave about a number of things, besides the youth congress, that will be an immediate follow-up to the rally.

“Next week (the week of September 20), there will be an opportunity for 25 youth to work with Habitat for Humanity,” said Robinson, who told The Wave that the young people will be making stained glass tiles for a habitat home. The tiles, which will be joined with other tiles from across the city, will represent the Rockaway community.

Young volunteers will also get a chance to work on a documentary about the developmental, individual, social and community issues of the Rockaways being filmed with the help of Connection TV. She also said that a Great Adventure trip is scheduled for October.

Volunteers ages 16 and up can participate. For more information you can reach Robinson at 718 634-2000.

Among others who were scheduled to speak at the rally were Eric Adams of 100 Blacks in Law Enforcement, former New York Jets linebacker Mo Lewis and Marvin Mizell (Jam Master J’s brother). Some of the local entertainment who were to take part were the Beach 40th Street Steppers and singer Sylfronia. Rap artist Mr. Cheeks, who hails from Queens, and the rap group Bang Em Smurf & Dominion were also scheduled to perform. As of this writing, there is no word of rescheduling the rally.

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