By Dr. Dhanpaul Narine
It started with Jennifer Isaac. She walked into Khaleel Anderson’s office and said, ‘Enough is Enough. Too many kids are dying. We need to do something. Let’s have a march for peace.’
The suggestion materialized into a march on Rockaway Boulevard, in late July. It attracted representatives from a number of organizations with the same message: the violence has to stop. There are too many guns on the streets and violence is not the answer. Jennifer is a realist. She has seen too many broken families in which children have suffered.
She says, ‘we are losing our kids to the streets. I see it every day. They get initiated in gangs. There are times when children may get in the house with a black eye, from a fight. You mean nobody notices? Nobody talks to the kids and find out what happened? Something is wrong if no one sees that a child is in pain.’
Jennifer has strong views about the schools. She feels that the time given to counseling is too short. ‘I would set up more mental health programs in schools and one and one communication with the kids. Many children don’t know how to deal with anger. We have to get to the root cause. No one is going to get up and say he or she is going to shoot someone today. We have to get to the bottom of it before it happens. You can’t always dump people in jail. When the young people get in jail their mental health goes out of the window and all they get is more medication, that doesn’t work. They are coming out worse than when they went in jail.’
Assemblyman Khaleel Anderson of the 31st Assembly District said that that purpose of the Peace March was to bring attention to the increase in violence in South-East Queens, especially in South Ozone Park, South Richmond Hill, and Springfield Gardens. We want to restart the discussion about how people can work together to make the community safe. The Assemblyman called for investing in the community.
He said that the investment means a number of things such as, ‘job opportunities, people that suffer from disabilities, making sure that we treat gun violence as a public health issue and to make sure that resources come from the budget so we could support programs in South Ozone Park, and all across New York City. We need to invest in our communities so that people will know that there are other ways to go about their lives, rather than resort to violence.’
The March picked up momentum along Rockaway Boulevard and by the time it reached Foch Boulevard a number of persons had joined. The speeches were from representatives of various organizations. They struck a similar theme with the same powerful message: it was time to do away with violence. There was an appeal for the message to reach ‘the soul, the emotions and the will’ so that positive change can result. Speakers represented 100 Suits for 100 Men, South Ozone Park Civic Association, the Sikh community, Kings of Kings Faith Leaders, Fathers Alive in the Hood (FAITH), FedCap, Community Advocates and residents. Dr. Dhanpaul Narine, from the Shri Trimurti Bhavan, called for more resources in education to spread awareness, and for the dangers of gun violence to be included in the teaching curriculum in schools.
Karl A. Valere, Chief of Staff, and Mone’t Schultz, Deputy Chief of Staff and Legislative Director, in the office of Assemblyman Khaleel Anderson, was on hand to engage the community.