The Q at Parkside

(for those for whom the Parkside Q is their hometrain)

News and Nonsense from the Brooklyn neighborhood of Lefferts and environs, or more specifically a neighborhood once known as Melrose Park. Sometimes called Lefferts Gardens. Or Prospect-Lefferts Gardens. Or PLG. Or North Flatbush. Or Caledonia (west of Ocean). Or West Pigtown. Across From Park Slope. Under Crown Heights. Near Drummer's Grove. The Side of the Park With the McDonalds. Jackie Robinson Town. Home of Lefferts Manor. West Wingate. Near Kings County Hospital. Or if you're coming from the airport in taxi, maybe just Flatbush is best.

Monday, September 5, 2016

Lives Lost, Fingers Pointed

The Q had high hopes it would be fine, that the night and day would pass peaceably, and the comments on social media would be all festive and fond come Monday, Labor Day, 2016. But it wasn't to be.

My alarm went off at 4am as planned. What a feeling to be up at that hour knowing you're going to hear terrific music and witness one of the great American parades just blocks from home. The wife and kids, not this time, but I told them one day I'll take them too, wake 'em and take 'em. From the first time we saw a crowd of painted and powdered revelers walk by our window many years ago, I've been fascinated by the slave-days history and renegade spirit of the parade beFORE the parade. No permits! No amplifiers! Just drums, dancing and ritual. So free, so joyous, so unlike anything I ever expected to experience while growing up in hum-drum corn country.

By the time I reached Bedford Avenue I could see something was amiss. People headed the wrong direction. "Hey, the parade's up that way" I thought. Then I remember what happened last year, not much later in the morning actually. So I whipped out my phone and dialed up The Twitter. Two shootings, and it wasn't even official start time. I headed up Bedford and in EXACTLY THE SAME PLACE as last year was Vinnie Martinos of the 71st, next to the new C.O. They were in the middle of the road, and police cars and lights were everywhere. And still, people milling about, smoking the cheebah, dancing. The "sensible kids" as my neighbor calls them, many of them headed home, some after scattering wildly from not one but two crime scenes, then three.

In the leadup to the Parade there had been heated exchanges online between neighbors - some who I know and some I don't - trying to figure out whether the hysteria matched the threat. After last year's killing of an aide to the Governor, everyone knew security would be tight. But the floodlights on every block, the massive police presence, it was all a bit eerie in the days and hours leading up to the Big Event. A new resident posted his concern about getting home safely after a late night of working, and received a berating, then he lashed back, and from there the comments piled on. A woman posted a terrific piece on what J'Ouvert is all about and why it's wrong to draw conclusions about the parade based on fear and racism and media coverage, and the internet glowed with praise for the public takedown of "coded" language. I looked forward to "I told you so's" on Tuesday, but from the defenders of J'Ouvert not the feeders of fear. Turn a page, turn the corner, enlighten some minds. All good.

And yet now, all the yammering about blame and society's ills can't bring back two young people who didn't deserve to die in a morning of celebration.

Tiarah Poyau - 22 years old. Gone.

Tyreke Borel - 17 years old. Gone.
 Other shootings, thankfully, did not result in fatalities. But they were shootings nonetheless, one on Clarkson at Rogers. One a 72 year old woman sitting on a bench by the Wendy's. What links the shootings, what sense can be made?

Each shooting involved a gun. That's about as much reason as I can derive. And the blame must fall on the shoulders of the perpetrators, at least until we get to the bottom of why anyone would shoot anyone at a parade, or anywhere for that matter. And even if we get to the bottom, even if we fix the wrongs, fights will break out. That's human nature. Must they always be lethal? Of course not. This is America's enduring shame...guns. Guns tamed the land, killed the natives, kept humans in chains, and now needlessly kill and maim our own citizens in epic numbers. Irony and tragedy, hand in hand, gun in hand.


Essential Post from neighbor Onyi Shimmys Adaora (who granted permission to repost)

MY RESPONSE TO THESE FLYERS PLASTERED ALL OVER OUR COMMUNITY AND A FELLOW NEIGHBOR:
Recently a member of this group posted innocently enough, a question asking the safest route for him to take home on the day of J'ouvert. Clearly he is concerned something bad may happen to him during this celebration more than any other day of the year.
Unfortunately, that question with undertones of ignorance, self-imposed fear, and double standards isn't as innocent as it appears.
For those that do not know...J'ouvert is a cultural event celebrated by many West Indians/ Carribeans. Originating in 1783, slaves banned from the masquerade balls of the French, staged their own mini-carnivals in their backyards. The origins of street parties associated with J'ouvert coincide with the emancipation from slavery in 1838.
Emancipation provided Africans with the opportunity, to not only participate in Carnival, but to embrace it as an expression of their newfound freedom and tribute to their spirit of survival. The breakdown of "J'ouvert" in French is dawn and daybreak -- which is why the festival starts well before dawn and peaks a few hours after sunrise.
The NYPD and members of the community recently posted the flyers (you see on this post) around certain neighborhoods. The verbage expressed assumes members of this community are unaware of laws and basic ethics of this great city we live in, and suggests at some point in time they promoted and encouraged violence. It's condescending, it provokes isolated fear of a group of people, and is simply done in poor taste.
It would have been just as effective to have a flyer that read, "We look forward to serving and protecting our neighbors during J'ouvert and West Indian Day celebrations -- Please be safe and respectful. And remember, if you see something, say something." This rhetoric is in sync with NYPD and MTA's campaign of safety. Instead, the flyers they posted creates mass hysteria and a negative perception to what is supposed to be a joyous and peaceful occasion.
You don't hear this rhetoric during Halloween, 4th of July, Pride Week, Columbus Parade, St. Patrick Day Parade, and a slew of other NYC cultural events. So why now? Why this? The unfortunate shooting that took place last year resulting in the death of aide to Gov. Cuomo, Carey Gabay, was not a result of J'ouvert, but rather senseless gang related activity.
To group isolated violence and associate them with a people and a peaceful cultural celebration is absurd and asinine. It fosters this disconnect people unfamiliar to the culture of a neighborhood harbor, and creates unnecessary fear and leaves people on edge. From cops, to new neighbors, to people easily moved by sensationalism. And we all know that never leads to anything good.
I can't for the life of me imagine anyone living by Union Square or Times Square asking about the safest route home or complaining about noise levels during New Year's Eve. At some point you have to question your decision to move to an area not conducive to your liking and personal interests.
This is not a new occurrence here. In fact, it's been around long before most of us were ever here. To demand or desire everyone and everything else change for you is as ignorantly narcissistic and inconsiderate as it comes.
An influx of new residents have elected to move to these areas for various reasons. Reasons like affordability, a sense of culture, or promises of gentrification that may prove beneficial to their advancement and come up. To not take it upon themselves to better understand said culture is reckless and negligent. The blatant and indirect offense is getting tiring. It's unproductive and not healthy to the relations of a community.
So to my fellow neighbor who posed the question on the safest route home? Simply use good judgment like you would any other day in your life here in Brooklyn. You chose to move into a neighborhood that has had a long existent cultural backdrop unique to them and this community. I think it critical to make efforts to understand the dynamics of a culture instead of being fearful of it..or worse, its people.

16 comments:

Anonymous said...

It's just heartbreaking. I can see both sides of the argument though. No one wants to admit their celebration is being a flash-point for violence. Heritage is always worth preserving, but safety of citizens (even from themselves) is too. The giant police presence couldn't even deter this because crazy criminals just don't give a damn.
Personally I'm on the side of do away with the night-time celebration and just enjoy one huge one during the day. People tend to be less crazy in broad daylight. I chose to stay in another neighborhood because I had the terrible feeling that the day would not go off without a problem, and I would rather be able to get around that Monday without trouble.

Anonymous said...

I agree with anon 10:10

Do away with the night-time celebration and just enjoy one huge one during the day

If the insane amount of police presence and flood lights everywhere can't stop the death and violence than nothing will. I mean I know it's not the fault of the celebration or the majority of the people attending but it does prove to me that violence and death at this event is almost unavoidable.
The crimes/killings happened right underneath the polices noses and they still weren't even able to apprehend the perps responsible for the killings.

Clarkson FlatBed said...

Hmmm. Over the years a lot of violence happened on Parade Day. I hate to say it, but you can't plan or prevent this stuff. You just gotta keep on keepin' on and hope for the best, with the smartest, least-police-state protection possible.

If that sounds bleak, I would remind that, parade or not, there is always the likelihood of violence in Brooklyn on a Labor Day weekend. Sorry, but dem's the facts Jack.

Alex said...

Another experiment would be to hold J'ouvert in a community where gun violence is not a problem. Most people agree that the "bad guys" use J'ouvert as cover to go after their rivals, killing bystanders in the process. If you held J'ouvert in a community where gangs are not present - like Park Slope or Brooklyn Heights - maybe gun violence would cease to ruin the festivities.

Anonymous said...

Each shooting involved a gun. That's about as much reason as I can derive. And the blame must fall on the shoulders of the perpetrators

Ah, each shooting involved a perpetrator who illegally acquired a gun and carried it with him the other night, prepared to fire it if he felt the need. And the need was felt. Lock up the killers for life.

This is America's enduring shame...guns. Guns tamed the land, killed the natives, kept humans in chains, and now needlessly kill and maim our own citizens in epic numbers. Irony and tragedy, hand in hand, gun in hand.

Ah, no. It's not a gun thing. It's a black thing. Blacks commit murder at 11 times the rate of whites. That can't be dismissed. The difference is staggering, and is overwhelming evidence of a social pathology that no one has managed to defeat.

Anonymous said...

From your re-post:

Instead, the flyers they posted creates mass hysteria and a negative perception to what is supposed to be a joyous and peaceful occasion. You don't hear this rhetoric during Halloween, 4th of July, Pride Week, Columbus Parade, St. Patrick Day Parade, and a slew of other NYC cultural events. So why now? Why this?

Why? Because no one is murdered at the other events. Okay, 15 or 20 years ago a kid was killed as a result of a fight at a St Patrick's Day parade. He wasn't shot. That's the answer.

And on all the other days of the year when no parades or festivals are scheduled, where do the city's murders occur? Almost all occur in black or Hispanic neighborhoods.

Clarkson FlatBed said...

fyi everyone...I'm allowing these questionable comments to go through, not because I endorse them, but because they succinctly state the "other side." The question raised shouldn't be whether or not more crime happens in black communities. It does. The question is, how do you solve it. If you start from a perspective that blacks are naturally more violent, you're a super racist. That is, in fact, the most specific definition of racism. Racial superiority. You are, in fact, a white supremacist. Own it baby.

If however you are blaming black culture as it manifests in largely poor, dense neighborhoods of the American city...you cannot blame a culture which is created by racism for being "pathological." The pathology is white first and black pathology does not exist without the white. In fact, blackness doesn't exist without the white pathology. Think that through Mr. "I don't want anyone to know my real name."

I love how racists use "facts" to prove they're not culpable. That's Super Pathology, and unreachable by reason or heart.

FlatLen said...

The parade is part of my heritage and culture. Heck, my parents lived in Crown Heights during the first parade held back in the 1960s. They used to go on occasion in the 70s and 80s, and the violence was bad back then. The last time I went it was in the late 90s or early 2000s. I have no intention of going back. Why would anyone believe that a greater police presence would intimidate? Too many thugs don't care, are not intimidated by the police, and thus ruin it for everyone. Normal people need to boycott. That is what needs to happen.

The Snob said...

I've been thinking about this a lot, and what's the "responsible" path that this amazing event can continue through. [I have been attending Jouvert since the '90s.] Given that the participants, the character, and the location are all sacrosant -- as they should be; it's a party that belongs to this neighborhood -- the only thing that makes sense to me is to start it at dawn, in daylight. If revelers want to gather in darkness, they could do so at the mas camps, in essentially private celebration. But open the road at first light, and see if that keeps the cowards and their guns at bay. Nostrand Ave was alive with music and craziness in broad daylight until 10 am, and it was still Jouvert. It's not "the same," but moving the whole event forward a few hours could make a big difference.

Anonymous said...

You wrote:

If however you are blaming black culture as it manifests in largely poor, dense neighborhoods of the American city...you cannot blame a culture which is created by racism for being "pathological." The pathology is white first and black pathology does not exist without the white. In fact, blackness doesn't exist without the white pathology.

Really? You say it's not possible to blame black culture because the black pathology doesn't exist without the white pathology? Whitism, shall we say, a powerful plague that taints whatever it touches? Really? So it seems you therefore believe the extreme poverty, extreme violence and the failed governments of the entirely black countries in sub-Sahara Africa are nothing more than symptoms of whitism.

Anonymous said...

Ah, more of your amusing observations.

If you start from a perspective that blacks are naturally more violent, you're a super racist. That is, in fact, the most specific definition of racism. Racial superiority. You are, in fact, a white supremacist. Own it baby.

Yeah. Sure. Yet Asians account for 75 percent of the student body at Stuyvesant High School. Asians account for at least 50 percent of the student body at Brooklyn Tech. But Asians account for only 14 percent of the students in the NY City public school system. Hence, acknowledging that Asian dominance is an expression of racism at its most evil, isn't it?

Because, Asians, they have this culture, and well, to talk about race and culture and those factors distinguish themselves, well, that reveals some mental aberration, doesn't it?

You seem to favor that logical fallacy known as Proof By Assertion. Someone, something, is whatever you say it is, simply because you say so. No evidence aside from your assertions is required. Not one data point. And, of course, you like mixing proof-by-assertion with the old ad hominem.

Curious31 said...

Of course, what I see missing from most of these conversations is the fact that the people committing these crimes are YOUNG MEN, and the fact that at least one of these heinous murders was committed because a woman told a young man to get away from her and he subsequently killed her. This is MUCH deeper than Jouvert people!

Why are the conversations AUTOMATICALLY veering toward making everyone but the person who pulled the trigger responsible for defending the tradition? People are bending over backwards to place the blame everywhere BUT these people who pulled the trigger. What about the people who knew these folks had illegal guns? What about these people who knew these folks had intentions of using them to commit violent crimes? Why are we focusing our attention anything but these people?

I mean fuck, every time some brown or black person does something terrible, we dive into this debate about who needs to accept responsibility, apologies, cancel, reschedule, etc. Where were the calls to end shomrims after a man was blinded by a posse of a few Hasidic men? Where were the calls to cancel fucking Christmas for every person inconvenienced by fucking Santa pub crawls in midtown?

In an event that attracts hundreds of people, there were proportionally minimal, yet inexcusable act of violence that undoubtedly will have an impact on the entire community. But let's not pretend this is some invitation to no-gooders to roam the streets looking for opportunities for violence. Those people need no invitation and aren't biding their time for Jouvert, that's for damn sure!

Also, fuck these white supremacists who evoke this idea of black-on-black crime. Stop pretending like you'd give a shit, even if it were an actual problem (hint: IT'S NOT). Black folks survived 400 years of slavery and almost 200 years of Jim Crow. If they were really as predisposed to violence among themselves as some people claim, there wouldn't be a black community to speak of (and as an aside, the black community ain't a monolith. That should be readily apparent to ANYONE who lives in CH/PLG)

Clarkson FlatBed said...

10:14 - most governments in the world are messed up. It's not just sub-Saharan Africa, which, if your history will remind you, was carved up and fucked over by colonialists who put their own racist ideology onto the region. Perhaps in 50 years we'll see Jeffersonian democracy take hold. But our system of government is by far the minority, and in large part defined by its multiculturalism. That's part of its success. I suppose you'd have preferred the South won the War of Northern Aggression?

As to the "murderous" nature of blacks I give you the World Wars, responsible for a hell of a lot more heinous killing, in the many many millions. High crime rates are a result of social and economic imbalance and desperation; Bad government of ineffective or immoral judicial systems. With both, you can get the Holocaust.

Seriously, who taught you this crap? Does David Duke run a university now?

Clarkson FlatBed said...

Oh and Curious21 - On point. Love the passion. Thx for all the great reminders. Had there been no shooting, the electeds would be singing their own praises right now. I have no idea what they were trying to accomplish with this show of force. Oh, right. Eric's running for mayor. This would have worked out nicely for his "not afraid of show of force" cred. Too bad it backfired.

Anonymous said...

I Second all of what curious said, especially the part about the individuals associated with the perp. How many of us have friends who are comfortable enough with us that they can call us up and ask if they can hide their gun in our apartment because the heat is coming down. When all this went down I never thought of it as related to Jouvert so much as just another party that is effected by a larger problem.

Just on the side,(because I've never attended the early morning get down even though I've live here for 15 years) is attendance up considerably in the last 10 years with the introduction of the social media? I know that ship has sailed and there is no going back, but it seems like the speed of information has made every event and nice spot unbearable because it becomes the "it" thing to do. Jouvert never seemed to crack the news except in the last 3 or 4 years that I have been living hear. It was just an informal party that happened before the big parade. Now it's a "thing"

-josh

Clarkson FlatBed said...

You're right Josh! It has become a "thing," way beyond what it was. It was much more chaotic and spread out, and therefore, I think, a lot more fun. And I do believe that social media and digital media generally have a lot to do with it. It's also a damn good time for participants AND revelers, and if you haven't been you should really check it out. If Empire Blvd isn't your thing, the steps of the BPL and GAP offer a terrific view. Much less crowded than the daytime event, and the volume of the parade is actually (not hyperbole or exaggeration) injurious, particularly to young eardrums. It has clocked in at twice the safe level on the regular (remember, dBs are an exponential reading). Imagine what that does to the thousands of kids at the West Indian Day Parade? No one will touch that with a ten foot pole I imagine.