The Daily News published an article today about a stray bullet that hit my car while I was driving up 3rd Avenue this September. Thankfully, nothing happened to me or my mother that night. But the fact that the shooter was a 16-year-old young man again reinforces the need for our entire community to come together and collectively take action to prevent more young people from turning to gangs and gun violence. That is why we convened and are facilitating the El Barrio/East Harlem Youth Violence Task Force, a collaborative of community organizations and elected officials working to curb violence in our community through the development of positive alternatives.
Although the incident I was unknowingly involved in, in retrospect, was truly scary, unnerving, and extremely unfortunate, it is in no way a reflection of our youth or who we are as a community. To me it is indicative of a greater challenge before us. That young man, out on the street at 10:30 pm, carrying a gun and aiming to shoot someone, was surely let down by many people along the way, and that saddens me. It is an “all hands on deck” moment for our community and our city. We all have a role to play, and that is the message of the Youth Violence Task Force. We can’t stand idly by while we are losing a generation of our youth. Young people and the community as a whole want to pro-actively be part of dialogue to arrive at sensible and effective strategies and solutions.
This Thursday, the Youth Violence Task Force will release its official platform, which is a direct result of our community discussions and other meetings with young people, who shared with us their ideas about how we should all work together as a community to reduce violence in our neighborhood. The release of this report is only the beginning, as the Task Force will move on to more action-oriented next steps that will directly engage young people and the entire community in anti-violence efforts.
As a proud member of our community, I did not take lightly my decision to go to the press with this story. I feared that it might reinforce the notion that our neighborhood is a dangerous place, when clearly, violent incidents are the exception, and not the rule. However, I also thought it was important to draw attention to the hard work that our community has been doing on tackling the issue of youth violence.