2006-12-15 / Editorial/Opinion


Doing Something For The Memories Of Christopher Glenn, Mario Young, Ocie Johnson and Latina Bidrow?

It has been three weeks since Rockaway resident Sean Bell was shot down by police officers nearby a Jamaica strip joint. Bell and his friends were celebrating his impending marriage when things went violently wrong. Bell, a young black man, was shot and killed in a torrent of police bullets and two of his friends were wounded when police took action in what they believed to be a gun incident. Both the police department and Queens District Attorney Richard Brown are investigating the incident and it may well soon go before a grand jury. We do not know the right or wrong of the incident. We were not there, and neither were the majority of those in the community who march, demanding that police be sanctioned and that new, stricter rules keep police from undercover investigations in black communities and restrict the police officer’s use of deadly force to protect themselves or others. While we do not know what happened in Jamaica on November 25, we do know about Christopher Glenn, Mario Young, Ocie Johnson and Latina Bidrow. All four are young black people who were shot and killed on Rockaway streets this year in a spate of gun violence that nearly rivals that of the bad, old days. We do know that something needs to be done to address the memories of those young people who died senseless deaths at the hands of other young, black males. City Councilman James Sanders made a start last week by sponsoring a new program, co-hosted by the Anti-Defamation League that seeks to show teenagers how to deal with their anger without using violence. The program, called “No Place For Hate,” is designed to “create a culture of respect” and to “challenge bigotry among students.” In Rockaway, however, the major problem does not exist between races and religions. Our small peninsula’s major problems has always been a territoriality dispute between local city housing projects and communities. Teens don’t often say they come from Rockaway. Rather, it “I come from the Hammels” or “I live in Redfern.” The problem is exacerbated by the “No Child Left Behind” law, which brings teens from one section of the peninsula to another for school without teaching the teens that are not enemies. We have often put the burden on black leadership to solve “their” problem, but it is time for all of us to work together to solve the gun violence problem. Education is the key. Reading, writing and mathematics are important, especially in light of the new standardized testing program, but lessons on morality, living together and anger management might serve to teach teens as well as younger children to channel their natural hostility in more traditional ways, such as on the ball field or in academic pursuits. In any case, we must honor the memories of all of those victims of gun violence and move to do something rational to stop that violence.

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