2008-02-01 / Community

Redfern Rally: End 'Culture ofViolence'

By Miriam Rosenberg

Rev. Sherwin James (in ski cap) of the Bethel AME Church leads a prayer circle prior to the march around the complex. Also in the photo are Rev. Leslie Mullings, building resident Teresa Scott and Rockaway resident Les Paultre. Rev. Sherwin James (in ski cap) of the Bethel AME Church leads a prayer circle prior to the march around the complex. Also in the photo are Rev. Leslie Mullings, building resident Teresa Scott and Rockaway resident Les Paultre. Residents of the Redfern Houses in Far Rockaway joined with clergy this week in a rally at the sprawling public housing complex, saying that they are "fed-up with gun violence," and issuing a call for real action in ending "the culture of violence" that has taken so many young lives in the last few years - the most recent being 18 year-old Neville Ward, who was killed there on January 5.

The Day of Healing, on January 27, brought together residents, NAACP members and local clergy, as they led a group of approximately 50 people gathered on the grounds of the apartment complex, in sounding a rallying cry and a plea for non-violence.

"This [gun violence] has got to stop," said Ed Williams, the president of the Far Rockaway NAACP, who has lived in the complex for many years. "We've got to take our heads out of the pillows, like we don't know what's going down. We know what's happening. If you're not part of the solution, you're part of the problem. How many more kids do we have to go to funerals and see their parents and lives crushed over and over again?"

Ed Williams tells people at the rally it was time to take a stand. "We got to take our heads out of the pillows like we don't know what's going down. We know what's happening." Also pictured is Donovan Richards, co-advisor for the NAACP Youth Council and Pastor Dwayne Sleet, of the First Baptist Church of Far Rockaway. Photos by Miriam Rosenberg Ed Williams tells people at the rally it was time to take a stand. "We got to take our heads out of the pillows like we don't know what's going down. We know what's happening." Also pictured is Donovan Richards, co-advisor for the NAACP Youth Council and Pastor Dwayne Sleet, of the First Baptist Church of Far Rockaway. Photos by Miriam Rosenberg A furious Williams also talked about people who come up to his office at the NAACP and complain that police violate their civil rights.

"It ain't the police who killed the young boy who died a couple of weeks ago, or Stack Bundles who died here last summer. It wasn't the police that shot and killed him. It was us," continued Williams. "When are we going to come together and really make a difference in trying to make a change?"

Donovan Richards, the co-advisor for the NAACP youth council - which came up with the idea for the rally - echoed Williams' sentiments.

Singing the inspiration song, "We Shall Overcome" marchers rallied around the Redfern Houses calling for the end to gun violence. Singing the inspiration song, "We Shall Overcome" marchers rallied around the Redfern Houses calling for the end to gun violence. "It is no more talk," said Richards. "I'm not scared of these drug dealers here because you know what, somebody has got to sacrifice. Martin did it. Malcolm did it. That's the problem with our community today; too many people are scared to sacrifice for their community. We're tired of the damn killing."

Richards also asked local politicians to step up to the plate.

"We're calling on the New York City Housing Authority (NYCHA) to really get these guys [causing the trouble] out of here," Richards said. "We want cameras here as well, and we're not talking about asking one politician. All of them need to divvy up some funds and put these cameras in here."

State Senator Malcolm Smith has already allocated money for cameras on the complex, but the installation is tied up in red tape, NAACP officials said.

Many residents believed that the low turnout was the result of fear of retribution by gang members.

"We must step up as a community and not be afraid," said Rev. Leslie Mullins of the Community Church of the Nazarene. "We're here to take our community back [from the gangs]. It's about our kids dying in the streets every day, and we are responsible for the next generation.

"This is a start, but it needs to continue. We need to be proactive. We need to do what is right."

Most of the residents who attended the rally agreed.

"I pray that the community supports what they do, because we need help out here," said Teresa Scott. "I know we're not together like we need to be."

Geraldine Taylor said that fear keeps her from having her granddaughter over for visits. "She can't come over here no more because she's scared," said Taylor, a 14-year resident. "I'm scared too because I live on the fourth floor. I hope that it will make a difference."

Irving Privgen believes parents need to be more involved in their children's lives.

"Their parents aren't bringing them up with any respect," said Privgen about the new generation of young people in the buildings. "I don't want to blame the children. I think the parents have to take responsibility for their children. Stop staying in the house and sending their kids out to be on their own unsupervised."

Privgen also said NYCHA should be stricter with its zero tolerance for residents who are found with weapons in a public housing complex.

"They have a thing that's zero tolerance [if you're caught with a gun in the house], but the same people are still here," he said.

In March, Richards will be leading a door-to-door campaign called "I Love My Life." Joining him will be 50 youngsters from Jamaica as well as several people who signed up after the rally ended.

Local church leaders have pledged to assist as well.

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