2007-01-05 / Community

Far Rockaway Anti-Gun Meeting Draws Small Crowd

Mothers Against Guns Largely Ignored In Attempt To Reach Community
By Miriam Rosenberg Contributing Editor

Michelle Kales (left), of Mothers Against Guns, speaks JoAnn Glenn, the mother of shooting victim Christo-pher Glenn. Michelle Kales (left), of Mothers Against Guns, speaks JoAnn Glenn, the mother of shooting victim Christo-pher Glenn. Only a handful of Rockaway residents, including the mother of shooting victim Christopher Glenn, were among those attending a meeting held to find solutions to the recent rash of gun violence in the area.

The meeting, sponsored by Mothers Against Guns (MAG), was held on Saturday, December 30, at the Evangelical Holiness Church at 1143 Beach Channel Drive in an attempt to begin a dialogue among Far Rockaway's residents and its the youth, especially those living in the area's housing developments.

The president and founder of MAG, Liz Bishop-Goldsmith, attributed the low turnout to several factors, including a fear of retribution when dealing with people who carry guns.

"A lot of people are reluctant to come out," said Bishop-Goldsmith, who said she had received calls from residents regarding the gun violence in Far Rockaway. "They are afraid of retaliation."

She also said many people wait until it hits home or there is a high profile shooting before they get involved.

"This is the opportunity to get involved," Bishop-Goldsmith said into a megaphone as she stood on the steps of the church and tried to bring people into the meeting. "Come talk with us. You can ignore it, become a victim or sit down and say you wish you had done something."

In addition to Glenn, 16, who was fatally shot outside 51-15 Almeda Avenue on November 27, there were two other victims of gun violence as 2006 came to an end. Cedric Smalls, 18, was killed on December 15 in front of 81-03 Beach Channel Drive, at the Hammel Houses complex and Laton Spurgeon, 28, who was slain on December 19 outside his brother's home on Fernside Place in Far Rockaway.

"We are losing too many young people and others in the community we live in…sadly it is black on black crime," continued Bishop-Goldsmith, whose own godson was killed as a result of gun violence in 1994.

"It is going to take the whole community - merchants, medical professionals, educational institutions, neighbors, whoever makes up the community to stop the nonsense."

Francis Wolfe was one of the few Far Rockaway residents who attended the meeting.

"There is not enough school programs for children," said Wolfe. "It takes us adults. If we don't do it, the streets are going to take over our children."

Yvonne Rankin suggested reaching the young people through the schools.

"Young people think being in jail is a badge of honor," Rankin said. "If you could reach them in school there is hope for a better life."

Last weekend's meeting was in stark contrast of the one held in September in response to the shooting death of Mario Young, 16. Held at Far Rockaway's First Church of God, it was almost a full house as local leaders such as Councilman James Sanders, Jr. (who hosted the event) and National Association for the Advancement of Colored People president Ed Williams were joined by both adult and youth residents of various housing developments to

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