MIAMI – A community event that was already in the works before last week’s shooting spree in Liberty City has taken on new meaning and an increased sense of urgency.
During a press conference at the Belafonte Tacolcy Center, Miami-Dade County Commissioner Audrey Edmonson announced several anti-violence events happening this week, leading up to a large community gathering at the Tacolcy Center on Saturday, Jan. 31.
Edmonson was flanked by Rev. Larrie M. Lovett, president of the Brownsville Community Development Corp., Alvin Delaney, the program’s executive director and Kionne McGhee, an attorney with the Miami-Dade State Attorney’s office.
The first such anti-violence community gathering happened around this time last year, and, according to Delaney, not much has changed since then.
He added, however, that “We have some success stories. We have some youth that have gone on to do great things, but it’s like a drop in a bucket, compared to what we really need. We need a community effort.”
The group’s message comes after bullets were sprayed into a crowd of 50 people gathered to watch a game of dice on Friday night, Jan. 23 at Northwest 71st St. and 15th Avenue. Seven people were wounded and two young men, 16-year old Brandon Mills and 18-year-old Derrick “Termite” Gloster, were killed by the gunfire discharged by at least one, and possibly two masked gunmen.
Lovett entreated the community’s youth to take advantage of available programs.
“There are agencies available and waiting to step up to the plate to welcome every young person who will put down guns, knives and other methods of violence and assume a posture of peace that we might be able to live as one community and welcome the hope that this new era, this new movement in our nation, under the leadership of President Barack Obama.”
In addition to informing youth of the services available, Lovett issued a zero-tolerance message about violence.
“We are now saying not only to our young people…that violence will not be tolerated, but we’re also here to say to them that here’s help.”
Delaney implored parents to also avail themselves of the assistance.
“Too many of these parents have thrown their arms up in hopelessness saying that they can’t do anything to help with their children. Here is help,” he said.
An exasperated-sounding Edmonson said a new approach is warranted because it’s difficult to affect change in a community where people have grown accustomed to violence. She also warned against the excessive convening of forums where the people in the audience are those already interested in change.
“We need to get out and talk to those who are committing these crimes. Sitting in the churches, sitting in the community centers, the people who are committing the crimes are not coming there.
It’s time for us to put our brains together, put our hats on and get out in the streets to where the crimes are occurring,” Edmonson implored.
Providing a glimpse into the complex social dynamics in the inner city, Lovett reminded those gathered for the press conference that, “We have a community that really is afraid to call the police.”
Although dozens of people were present during the Jan. 23 shooting, the police say they have received no tips to help them solve the murders.
McGhee, 31, told the South Florida Times that he understands the frustration because he used to be like the youth the panel discussed.
“Actually I’m a product of the community myself. I’ve lived the life that many of these kids are living. I’ve gone to jail, been kicked out of Dade County public schools before, [labeled] mentally retarded in school, suspended over 20 times and today here I am as an attorney and here I am as someone who knows what they’re going through.”
The Howard University and Thurgood Marshall School of Law (at Texas Southern University) graduate said the issue has to be broken down into manageable pieces and approached with patience.
“Situations like these can’t go away overnight,” he cautioned.
Ed Harris, director of special projects for Miami-Dade County’s Office of Community Advocacy, said the easy access to weapons has to be eliminated in order for the carnage to stop.
Harris balks at the oft-repeated concern about change beginning in the home.
“Everyone always speaks, it starts in the home. Some of those homes are so dysfunctional and out of control some of those kids don’t even want to be in the homes,” he said.
Edmonson said parents’ roles are critical.
“If you think about it, the other night it was past…ten o’clock. They should’ve been home. Parents need to take that responsibility and say it’s time for you to be in. When you are a 14-, 15- or 16-year old child you should not be hanging out on the corner that time of night,” Edmonson said.
Photo: Miami-Dade County Commissioner Audrey Edmonson
IF YOU GO:
WHAT: Community Rally
WHEN: Saturday, Jan. 31, 2009 at 10 a.m.
WHERE: Belafonte Tacolcy Center, 6161 NW 9th Place, Miami.
CONTACT: 305-751-1295; 305-375-3593