Community Unites For Arrests

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Gun violence in Central Brooklyn prevails.  But it appears that a promising climax is on the horizon, thanks to the unrelenting efforts of Community Advocate, Tony Herbert of the Central Brooklyn Youth Initiative, Geoffrey Davis of the Stop the Violence Foundation, a group of Black church leaders and the community-at-large.  Neighbors are fed up with the gun violence and are coming forward to help police put an end to the shootings, which in too many cases, are taking the lives of innocent bystanders caught in the crossfire.

Back in March of this year, Herbert, Davis and other community activists declared Central Brooklyn in crisis mode and appealed to the community to help put  a stop to gun violence by cooperating with police.  This came in the wake of 27 year old Nancy  Williams, a mother of three who was shot dead Sunday evening, March 31st on Gates Avenue in Bed-Stuy, Brooklyn as a result of a stray bullet.  Since that tragedy, there has been a rash of gun killings that have gripped Central Brooklyn to epidemic proportions.  On the 4th of July of this year, 21-year-old Zeanie White, a college co-ed was killed by gunfire when a group of thugs crashed a party on Gates Avenue in Bed Stuy.  This prompted at least 50 biker groups, SUV, truck and auto  clubs to join the crusade and represent at young Ms. White's candlelight vigil, which was organized by Community Activist, Tony Herbert, Bruce Green and Taharka Robinson of the Central Brooklyn Anti Violence Coalition, Geoffrey Davis of The James E. Davis Stop Violence Foundation, The MW Enoch Masonic Grand Lodge, and The 81st Precinct & Brooklyn North NYPD. Congressman Ed. Towns and Councilman Charles Barron were among the many leaders who took the podium to urge residents to come together and help stop the senseless gun activity. Jackie Rowe Adams, who lost two sons in separate incidents to gun violence and now runs Harlem Mothers SAVE, a group of women whose purpose is to stop gun violence, sadly, each having at least one child killed by guns, pleaded to the young people at the vigil to stop the gun violence.  "If you see something, say something. It's not snitching. It's saving a life," Adams implored. A number of families who were related to these gun violence incidents also spoke out.

Four others were shot during the same 4th of July bash including the alleged target, Christopher Williams, who is already confined to a wheelchair in consequence of a gunshot he sustained 10 years ago.  Witnesses say that  when assailants commenced to shooting at Williams from front and back, Williams allegedly used 21-year-old Zeanie White as a human shield to block the spray of bullets that were meant for him.

On April Fool's Day, 2-year-old Serenity Balinger was allegedly shot by her father who was said to be cleaning his gun when he accidently shot the toddler .  At that time, Herbert proclaimed, “We need to get these guns off the streets and out of our communities.”

While in front of the home of 13-year-old Marquis Perez, who was shot and killed while he and a friend were allegedly playing with a loaded gun, Wednesday March 19th, Herbert called on all State, City and Federally funded youth organizations to come out from behind their desks and get into the streets to encourage the kids to come in and take advantage of recources available to them. “If the drug dealers and street thugs can stand on the corner in the rain, so can you. We have got to get out on that same corner and pass out the literature to let our young people know that they have choices.”

Herbert has been working with local City and State lawmakers to pen a Gang Free Zone Act which would demand gang-free zones, similar to the drug free zones, created in the 1980's, which makes it a felony to jump, recruit, or threaten a youth to become a member of a gang. The zone encompasses public schools and the distance between the school and public transportation within a ½ mile radius of the school, City and State recreation, community centers and public housing.

Apparently, Herbert and his allies' words have not fallen on deaf ears, evidenced by the age-old code of silence finally being broken when 9-year-old Shamsawan Kelly was shot in the head by a stray bullet while playing on a Crown Heights sidewalk in front of his home on Monday, August 4th. Based on information provided by countless witnesses, police soon arrested baby faced 18-year-old Louis Gonzalez who lives two stories up, in the same building as Shamsawan. They also took into custody Jonathan Frazier who is also 18 and Franklin Gillespie, 17. 

Police attributed the arrests to the community who they say swiftly came forward with information that led them straight to the suspects.

When asked if he felt they are winning the war against gun violence, Herbert stated, “I feel as though  a call to action was needed, and some folks have stepped up to the challenge. Now, we are working on a SAVE Our Community Initiative.  Phase One was held this past Thursday at PS  11. We have put in place a Community In Crisis Intervention/Prevention Agenda that will engage organizations such as  fraternities, sororities, community based groups, elected officials etc., to come and sit around the table to strategize on how to take back our communities from not only the senseless violence but to also address all the communal issues such as health and employment, to name a few, that fuel the mindset of those who would get involved in some form of violence within our community.  I am optimistic that there will be some resolution if we can all get on the same page and realize that this is bigger than an ego that maybe at the table. We will be very diligent on ruling out the opportunity for anyone in this initiative to promote their own agenda. We are a solution-based group and will move to action on just that.  As to the question if we are winning this war, I would say most certainly not yet, but we can if we can all just come together for the better of our community, and this we shall see if it will come to pass.”

As a result of community alliance,  the gun violence that plagues Central Brooklyn no longer commands inevitable perpetuality.

Brenda Jeanne Wyche is Managing Editor for Harlem Business News. If you have a solution, contact .  Maybe we’ll talk.

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