By Saeed Shabazz -Staff Writer-
Political, social choices impact violence suffered by children in New York, say advocates
NEW YORK (FinalCall.com) – People literally danced in the streets of East New York, a Brooklyn neighborhood, when news of the arrest of a 27-year-old mentally challenged, ex-convict was announced. He allegedly killed 6-year-old Prince Joshua Avitto and stabbed the boy’s 7-year-old friend Mikayla Capers in the elevator of their public housing building in late May.
A week earlier, an 18-year-old woman planning for college was stabbed in the same neighborhood. Fast-forwarding to June 2, a 16-year-old boy was fatally shot steps away from a Brooklyn police precinct. According to reports, some witnesses charged police did not do enough to help the teen and the ambulance that responded took too long to arrive.
Are the streets of New York becoming meaner and more unforgiving of children these days? “The streets are inanimate objects, it is the system driven by White-male domination and Wall Street greed that creates the condition of hopelessness for our children,” said former Councilmember Charles Barron, who once represented the area where the children were stabbed.
While leaving a meeting the longtime political leader said he heard Gov. Cuomo was closing the Brooklyn Development Center, a mental health facility, where 200 patients live and 400 workers are employed, to allow building of co-op and condominium apartments. “The young man charged in the stabbing of the two children was discharged from the Manhattan Psychiatric Center due to budget cuts,” he said.
“So, the streets aren’t making these decisions. It is governors and mayors that are mean to our children,” Mr. Barron said. He added that prior to his forced removal from office due to term limits, some $500,000 was appropriated for placement of elevator cameras in the Boulevard Housing complex, the scene of the child stabbings.
“Why weren’t the cameras purchased? Because while the lives of the Black and Latino residents were a priority for Mr. Barron, not so by those in charge of the NYC Housing Authority,” said Nation of Islam Student Minister Abdul Hafeez Muhammad of Muhammad Mosque No. 7 in Harlem.
Mayor Bill de Blasio did not respond to a request for comment from The Final Call.
“They don’t want things in the projects that are going to help the residents,” said Yousef Salaam of the Central Park 5, a group Black youth wrongly accused and jailed for decades for a crime they did not commit. The youngsters were convicted in the racially inflamed Central Park Jogger case, where a White female was beaten and sexually assaulted. “It is not that we have bad children,” he said. “The Central Park Jogger case brought a lot of things to a head in NYC such as branding youth as animals and that has stuck for over 25 years.”
The New York state department of education reports 22,000 children are in city homeless shelters. The Citizens Committee for Children reports 1 in 3 NYC children live in poverty. Some 124,000 poor children live in neighborhoods mired in extreme poverty–meaning more than 40 percent of the population lives below the federal poverty level. So 1 in 10 children live in city neighborhoods plagued by extreme poverty.
Last year a report from the New York University Furman Center found the real estate market segregates New Yorkers by income, creates neighborhood inequality and an unequal distribution of resources that affects quality of life and opportunities for advancement.
“We are supposed to be the greatest city in the world, and this is the reality,” Mr. Salaam said.
“When you look at the educational budget for the city, community programs that can be useful do not get funding. You have to be politically correct,” said Attorney Jacques M. Leandre of Queens, N.Y., who is also a member of the Nation of Islam and co-founder of the Rosedale Jets. Too often those organizations that get the funding have no real standing in the community, he told The Final Call.
In New York City, like other places, Black and Latino male students fail, drop-out, are suspended and expelled at a higher rate than their White counterparts.
“Chalk that up to the inferior education process for children of color in NYC,” said Jennifer Solar, communications director of Advocates for Children. Ms. Solar was the one to respond to Final Call interview requests sent to a plethora of city organizations that say they advocate for Black and Latino children.
There are not enough programs for teenagers, and not enough after school programs, she said.
“The unemployment in Black neighborhoods is at an all-time high. The pressures of life are turning individuals against the community because they see the limited resources that are available,” Mr. Leandre said. The violence is a manifestation of socio-economic issues that are not being addressed, he added.
The State Dept. of Labor reported in 2013 that unemployment in New York City for Blacks and Latinos combined was 25 percent. Some argue unemployment is more like 42 percent.
According to Mr. Barron, the city budget for summer youth employment is $8.5 million, out of a total budget of $73.5 billion. “There are 136,000 youth applying for these jobs, and they all can be employed if the city spent the money properly,” he said.
“Had we listened to the Honorable Minister Louis Farrakhan when he created the various departments after the 10th anniversary of the Million Man March, we would not be in this condition,” Mr. Barron said.
Councilman Barron is 100 percent right, said Student Minister Hafeez Muhammad of the Nation of Islam. “Min. Farrakhan said after creating the Millions More Movement that no one group can pull us out of despair, and that we needed to create a unifying spirit,” Mr. Muhammad stressed.
The Fruit of Islam stood with little P.J.’s mom on June 16 as she dismantled the memorial dedicated to her son. “This is what we have to do, stand with our people in the community,” said Mr. Muhammad. She has two other children, he added.