2007-10-05 / Community

Sanders Recruits Men To Solve Community Problems

By Miriam Rosenberg

Men from the black and Latino communities came together last month to discuss problems and try to develop solutions.

Councilman James Sanders Jr. brought the two communities together at a "fellowship breakfast" at the Macedonia Baptist Church on the morning of September 22.

"The idea was to get people to come together and say what was on everyone's minds," Sanders told The Wave in an interview this week. "It was a chance to say the problems that need to be confronted."

Some of these problems, Sanders said, include young people and violence, bad behavior and lack of jobs.

"We discussed quality of life [issues] for African-Americans and Latinos," said Rashford Mendes, the president of the Arverne Civic Association. "We voiced our concerns and what we think can be done."

The idea is to fix problems in the community without waiting for others to take care of them. While the councilman said 80 to 90 men attended the breakfast, don't expect any grand gestures right away. Sanders explained he wanted to start on a small scale and build from there. Beginning with a bimonthly cleanup, weather permitting, of Edgemere Park on Beach 51 and Beach Channel Drive.

He hopes to revitalize the park into a place where children can safety play.

"One small victory first," he said.

The project is also a means to an end to see who is really dedicated to fixing the community.

"By seeing who will come out and work, we will see who is serious," Sanders said. "We will also see who is ready to mentor young people and others."

Eventually young people will be brought into the mix.

"I never saw a gathering with so many men with the goal to make a better quality of life for young men," Mendes said. "There are not enough role models [out there]. If we don't help them now, what will happen to them in the future?"

In a press release, Pastor Gesnet Pierre of the Universal Church of Salvation talked about the importance of the breakfast and the new initiative.

"This community needs to be educated, because education is the key," said Pierre. "We need to work with our children in order to change this community; otherwise our children will continue to hang on street corners instead of in Harvard University classrooms. This breakfast was crucial for the betterment of this community."

Sanders said he is planning a similar get-together for women. He also said he is not stopping with the black and Latino population. He wants to bring the whole community in at some point.

"White men are under terrible pressure too," he said.

"First we have to aid ourselves. By aiding ourselves, we aid the whole community."

Mendes said he came away with positive feelings about the initiative and feel others did, too.

"I believe attendees left with a burning desire to do what we could to save as many youngsters as possible in the community."

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