Upcoming Events Target Violence In Rockaway
Two events aimed at ending a recent spike in shootings in the Rockaways will be held around Martin Luther King Jr. Day, The Wave has learned.
City Councilman James Sanders Jr. will lead the first event on Monday, January 15, as the nation observes Martin Luther King Jr. Day honoring the American civil rights leader who was assassinated in 1968. Sanders will lead residents on a march from the Redfern Housing Development in Far Rockaway west to the Hammel Houses in Rockaway Beach, according to an announcement released this week. The march steps off from Redfern at 2 p.m.
The councilman said he was "motivated" by "the upsurge in violence in the Rockaways" and the police shooting of Sean Bell. The goal, he said, is "protecting the lives of those still alive." Sanders said that "mothers are crying over the loss of their children" too often in the Rockaways.
"My community and I are fighting a fight that some think we will never win, but I guarantee on this day, with the spirit of Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. behind us, that this is only the beginning to end the destruction that comes all too familiar to my neighbors and myself," said the councilman.
Sanders held a press conference at Peninsula Hospital Center on December 22 to announce an anti-violence plan called "Stop the Bleeding, Start the Breathing, Heal the Wounds." But this week, Loretta Young, the aunt of Mario Young, a teenager gunned down in Far Rockaway last September, accused Sanders of being all talk and no action - and not attending other local meetings to address shootings.
"Councilman Sanders is always making promises, but he is just opening his mouth and saying nothing," Young wrote in a letter to the editor. She also accused Sanders of giving more attention to the NYPD's fatal shooting of Sean Bell. The letter appears in its entirety in the letters section of this issue.
Young's letter alludes to recent meetings at Macedonia Baptist Church, which have been attended by members of Families United Against Violence, Elder Barrielevia Evans of Sayahword Ministries and Ed Williams, the president of the Far Rockaway chapter of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People. At a meeting at Macedonia Baptist Church last week, Williams took issue with a Wave editorial suggesting that nobody cares about Rockaway's shooting victims, and JoAnn Glenn, the mother of shooting victim Christopher Glenn, 16, told this reporter that her son and the other victims of violence here have families that love them. "Don't forget to [write] that these children were loved," she said. "And they had a future."
The group is leading a petition drive against youth violence and told The Wave that they've collected 14,000 signatures so far, and that they plan on bringing their signatures to City Hall, Albany and Washington, D.C.
The groups will host a meeting on Thursday, January 18 at Macedonia Baptist Church at 330 Beach 67 Street. The meeting, sponsored by Sayahword Ministries and the NAACP, will begin at 7 p.m. Community members are invited to attend.
A recent spate of gun violence has resulted in the deaths of several young men in Rockaway, including Glenn, Young and two others: Cedric Smalls, 18 and Laton Spurgeon, 28. Police are investigating those shootings, which have not been solved.