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.

Wednesday, September 9, 2015

Laurie Cumbo On Gun Violence

Normally the Q wouldn't just post a press statement verbatim, but you know CM Laurie has a unique way of expressing herself. I'm pretty damn sure she doesn't rely on ghost writers - she's a solid communicator, and while she's become less off-the-cuff as she becomes a more seasoned politician, she still speaks from the heart. A Spellman grad and the founder of the Museum of Contemporary Art of the African Diaspora (MOCADA), she has a strong respect for and knowledge of the issues facing black Brooklynites. Short version, I read her emails.

I was dismayed by the outpouring of condemnation of the Carnival parade, as if somehow a parade is the CAUSE of the violence that can erupt during its related festivities. There was nothing wrong about the way the parade was organized, nor did I see any blatant missteps by the police. The whole issue betrays a lack of understanding, I think, of the dynamics at play in the neighborhoods of Central Brooklyn, where literally hundreds of thousands of people live in a very few square miles. Where entrenched poverty and racism and educational segregation live beside new-found wealth and development and values imported from other parts of the country and world. I'm no gentrification-basher. I recognize that change is inevitable, good and bad. Despite my 13 years in the 'hood I'm a first-generation gentrifier myself, not self-hating by the way. But I'm often shocked that people of intellectual curiosity and liberal ideology become so defensive and quick to blame others when it comes to issues that effect us all, regardless of background. These problems are OUR problems. These celebrations are OUR celebrations. If we don't see them as "ours" we don't stand a chance of creating a more just and egalitarian society by addressing them together.

We become yet another generation to sweep it all under the rug. We leave the world the same, or worse, than we found it.

If people really mean what they say when they say they love living in a diverse urban environment, I believe they have to recognize their own shortcomings, even ignorance. In my mind, the place to avoid the messy underbelly of America is the suburbs or exurbs. They were created, like theme parks, to highlight and reinforce one version of the American Dream. Some were incorporated as whole other corporations to avoid mixing even the money and schools of the inner cities. It's the perfect place to move when you throw up your hands and can't be bothered with the work of integration and political, judicial and economic equality. That's not to say I don't understand the urge and the pull. It's just not for me, and I suspect it's not for a lot of you. Unless, of course, you moved to Brooklyn specifically to recreate the suburbs for the City, the homogeneous from the heterogeneous, the dream from the reality.

So, for what it's worth, here's what one thoughtful Brooklynite had to say. I think she meant second year in office, not term, by the way. (That's one of the ways I'm certain she wrote it!)
As a Council Member serving in my second term in office, I would say the most challenging aspect of the position has become writing statements or press releases or even attending rallies around issues of gun violence in our communities. I have grown frustrated with simply putting out a routine statement surrounding gun violence in our communities without having the necessary resources, manpower or infrastructure to address the issue in a systematic, continuous and meaningful way. I believe we have come to that tipping point where we can all recognize that whatever strategies we have been utilizing to address gun violence in our communities have not made the impact that is desired in curtailing the violence that has become so commonplace particularly in communities of color.

For the past 48 years, people have traveled all over the world for the West Indian American Day Carnival held in Brooklyn, New York during Labor Day Weekend. I pray and hope like so many others that every year, it will be a safe weekend and that the spectacular and important nature of the Carnival will not be overshadowed by an act of violence that might happen anywhere in Brooklyn and often not directly related to the Carnival. In addition, as an African-American woman, I recognize that an entire race of people are often condemned when acts of violence like this occur and it undeniably impacts how people will view or treat people of the African Diaspora.

Gun violence in New York City is an epidemic and it has been an issue for some time. I can't remember a time in my life, living in New York, that the reality of gun violence wasn't very real or often hit close to home. It is interesting to me how different administrations are often identified by how they have or have not dealt with gun violence. However, in a very personal way, I have never felt the absence of gun violence in my life. Questions have been pouring into me about how can we make the Carnival safer, but I think the real question here is how do we get to the heart of the issue and that is how do we put real resources that are sustainable towards the epidemic of gun violence in our communities? I believe this should be a central part of the #Blacklivesmatter movement and all other movements that are focused on the senseless killing of innocent Black people.
If we truly believe all lives matter then we have to recognize that this weekend unfortunately like far too many weekends this summer, resulted in violent incidents. A 24-year-old man was fatally stabbed; a 21-year-old man was shot and is in stable condition; and a 33-year-old man was stabbed and currently in serious but stable condition. Additionally, 43-year-old Carey Gabay, who is a member of Governor Cuomo's Administration as the First Deputy General Counsel, is fighting for his life while surrounded by family. These dynamics are deep rooted and it is critical that we get to the heart of these issues versus playing politics or the blame game. Our energies, prayers and thoughts should be with the families who need our support now more than ever. These are challenging issues that have a long history, but we simply cannot say that there is nothing that we can do about it moving forward. Generations of young people are depending upon us to provide them with the safety that we as adults are obligated to create for them.
It is critical at this time that we address the issues of gun violence head on. We must begin with restoring critical funding to Operation SNUG (Guns Spelled Backwards) a project of the New York State Division of Criminal Justice Services. SNUG was launched in 2009 with $4 million allocated from the New York State Legislature, which covered seven cities. SNUG is currently funded at $2.9 million. SNUG is a cure violence model that is working all across the state and nation, but it requires adequate investment. According to the website, "officials from Buffalo say Operation SNUG led to a reduction in street violence. In Albany, shootings decreased by 29% over eight months. In Rochester, shootings dropped by 40% over six months and violent altercations fell to a 10-year low." NYC Mayor Bill de Blasio announced an additional $12.7 million in funding that will allow the total number of Cure Violence partner sites in NYC to triple in 2015. The City of New York is working towards solutions but again more resources will be required and it will take time to address these issues.

I believe that every Borough should have an office focused specifically on addressing gun violence that deals with mental health services, community outreach, organizing community partners, town hall meetings, 72-hour responders to gun violence throughout the City, school interventions, teen summits, city-wide marketing campaigns, and art and athletic outlets for our youth. I am committed to working with my colleagues to make this a reality. There are other models that are working such as in Staten Island, where they launched the "Occupy the Blocks" initiative throughout the summer months, three days a week in order to have a consistent male presence in their neighborhoods to avert violent acts, while providing man-to-man counseling to area male youth. This initiative brought crime down to an unprecedented level this summer on the North Shore, but in order to make programs such as these sustainable, adequate and consistent resources are required. I was also proud to have the support of my colleagues in government to expand the Anti-Gun Violence Initiative, which is now listed under the overarching Public Safety Initiative, by $720,000 to bring the total of the Initiative to $8,840,000 in order to include the arts in the Initiative as a key tool in addressing gun violence.

Finally, I look forward to sitting down with the organizers of the West Indian American Day Carnival Association to discuss how we can utilize the greatest convening of people of African descent in the United States to launch an anti-gun violence campaign that has the power to spread all over the world and to reach millions of people. I believe that it would be very powerful for the Caribbean community to lead the way in organizing a Carnival that brings people together for a very important celebration of cultural heritage but is also infused with a powerful, social justice message of peace.

Yours in Partnership,
Laurie A. CumboMember of the New York City Council


Anonymous said...

Getting rid of guns, yes, but please NYC, NYPD and DA, deal with the gangs too. Are we being unfair meanies to the gang members to say they're to blame too? I'm a card carrying liberal and hater of guns but it's the gangs that are shooting up the areas within our particular precinct. We've got a city that's happy to let certain neighborhoods have violence while they are concerned only with the rich neighborhoods. You've still got a tale of two cities here, DeBlasio.

Clarkson FlatBed said...

I'm sure it's of little solace, but there are literally hundreds of law enforcement officers and offices dedicated to gangs. Patrol Borough Brooklyn South puts a lot of resources into it, as does the D.A.'s office. Are they doing any good? I guess we'll never know how many shootings they prevented since they didn't happen. But gangs or "crews" and their conflicts are a big part of this. I wouldn't want the impression to be out there that the City doesn't recognize the influence of gangs on crime.

Alex said...

Cumbo's message is by far the best thing I've heard out of any NYC politician on this issue. She's acknowledging the systemic issues and providing concrete, effective solutions. Bravo. De Blasio better make these programs a reality if he's at all serious about addressing crime.

ctrldwn said...

The area around the parade route, and the areas surrounding it have gang activity. It's the only time of the year where gangs from other parts of Central Brooklyn move around the neighborhood together on foot. Their paths will cross eventually and people will get hurt. That's undisputable. It's been that way for years. It's the question of how we deal with it and whether we should add more police or focus on changing the mindset of these young men to dissuade them from this type of activity. I think we should do both but for me, this state of mind many young black men find themselves in where they are glorifying violence, attitudes and other destructive behavior is big part of why these things are happening. That's where parenting comes in and what is socially acceptable in the confines of your area and what isn't.

I know this parade's image has been tarred due to the violence and it's unfair but it is what it is and that image won't go away until you eliminate the problem that contributes to it. If you remember, the Puerto Rican Day Parade had a similar image problem which was due to the incidents tied to the event. Now, there have been other events in the city that have a huge African American attendance such as AfroPunk and the African Film Festival and I cannot remember the last time I heard or read of any record violence taking place before, during and after. Granted, they don't nearly have the same amount of revelers as the WILDP, but they do draw large crowds and don't have any problems with violence. I think it would be an interesting discussion as to why that is but maybe some other day.

Clarkson FlatBed said...

The area around the parade route, and the areas surrounding it have gang activity. It's the only time of the year where gangs from other parts of Central Brooklyn move around the neighborhood together on foot. Their paths will cross eventually and people will get hurt. That's undisputable. It's been that way for years.

Where on earth are you gathering this information from? Are you an expert on gang mobility? Is there a Gang Travel Network website you can refer me to?

Also, did you read about the white punk from Staten Island who punched out a cop who was trying to write a ticket over Labor Day in Flatbush? It was in the vicinity of the parade too. Does it count towards the incidents of violence?

This is an "open air" celebration, not unlike Mardis Gras, which also suffers from flare-ups. That's a reasonable comparison to make. But there is no reason to compare them to closed or ticketed events. The only things that AfroPunk or a Film Festival (really? a FILM festival?) have in common is blackness. Meaning why on earth are you comparing them? A Michelle Obama family reunion has a lot of black people. Who gives a shit?

The problem here is the media linkage of parade and shootings, and the fact that more people are on the street when a shooting DOES occur. The answer is not lock down and curfew.

That is to say, one shooting is too many. But hundreds of shootings throughout the year in the area are WAY too many, and too many to stop by shutting down a single parade.

ctrldwn said...

Hold up! Let me make this clear. First and foremost, I'm not in the camp of "Lets move the parade somewhere else". I'm not advocating that and I think it's silly for anyone (like Christopher wrote in the other post) to suggest moving the parade will curb the violence. The parade is fine where it is. The problems of violence can be fixed. This area home to a lot of Afro-Caribbeans. It makes sense to have the parade here and not in the city.

Secondly, I near the park. I've been here my entire life! I know a lot of about this parade and the violence that unfortunately occurs before the annual start of the parade which is common. it bears no reflection on the parade itself but what it speaks to is the need to address the problem of gun violence and what steps can we take to minimize it especially during holiday weekends. We can discuss why that is but it's occurs more frequently at this time of the year than your typical early morning hours on a Monday. Ask anyone. If you think crews from Flatbush, CH, PLG or Bed Stuy DON'T move around during the late night hours of j'ouvert, then you don't much about how street crews work. They're not stationary. The move with their friends/ girlfriends. They are active and are out to have a good time like anyone else and when someone in the crew recognizes a rival crew/gang or vice versa, violence will happen. And who cares about that white kid from Staten island. I'm talking about shootings and their recklessness of these shooters. You bring up this idiot who assaulted a police officer and I'm talking about life and death here. Armed men who feel the need to shoot at their adversaries are a threat to everyone. They don't care who they hit. I'm not worried about some dumbass who attacked a cop. Are you forgetting that this most the victims of these incidents have nothing to do with the shooters themselves?

And I made that comparison because it's relevant to this topic at hand. There are many Afro themed events that I go to every year. Most of them have large crowds and don't have this problem. For some reason, the pre-dawn festivities seems to garner more knuckleheads than the actual parade itself. Yes, you are right. The media created the narrative that links the shootings to the parade itself but every year, you hear so, so and so shot during the overnight hours during Labor Day weekend in the vicinity of the parade route. It's a fact and whether the media chooses to misrepresent the parade because of their own stupidity or not is irrelevant because the frequent amount of shootings do happen more around this time and it's not an anomaly.

And I don't know you can physically lock down a neighborhood. It's not right course to take to guarantee the safety of the people. It seems like a fools errand to me and waste of resources but what I think needs to happen is for the organizers of this parade, community activist and politicians , including the mayor, to get serious with this growing problem that is taking the lives of black men at an alarming rate For every white racist cop/vigilante/psycho who guns down an unarmed black person, there are dozens of young black boys, girls, men and women who will never get to enjoy life because some thug thought it would be a good idea to fire off some shots. And the answers are going to have to come from law enforcement, the criminal justice system, social rehabilitation, instituting programs that will get young men and women away from the streets and an education and to address the culture of violence that is glorified through images on tv, and through lyrics on music that many young black boys and girls listen too and attach to their own persona.

ctrldwn said...

And I forgot to mention this but I read Laurie Cumbo's letter and it's very touching and I'm glad to have someone like her representing CH. I'm glad she did this. I wish I could say the same for our district but I can't. Anyway, she is a wonderful asset to Brooklyn I wish her success.

Clarkson FlatBed said...

I don't want a fight. I just want to point out that most weekends in the summer have shootings, often murders. Labor Day Weekend is not special in this way. And the vast majority of shootings DO involve people who know one another. It's actually quite rare that an innocent is killed. This one seems to be a case of an errant bullet, and that's everyone's worst nightmare. Believe me I know; we saw it happen right across the street from me and it's chilling to say the least. But it wasn't a random shooting. It was poor aim, which is another fact of gansta life.

The reason I brought in that white idiot is this: were it a Caribbean guy and it happened during the hours of the parade it would have made the front page of the Post. I'm serious. This is exactly what people are dying to read about -- black people run amok. Riots. Signs of racial discord. I don't for the life of me see why we need to trot out this thing about the Parade and violence every year when violence is all around us all the time. It's not even especially high historically.

No one wants to see an end to senseless shootings more than me. But people are looking for a villain and the villain ain't the parade. That's all.

ctrldwn said...

I am fully aware of the racial angle the media plays when reporting this event. If I have to sum up our local media in one word, it would be stupid. They actually have a poll asking their uninformed viewers should the parade be canceled? And they possess a racial bias against black themed events. But having said that, the issue of shootings is a problem that never goes away in our hood and it always rears it's ugly head during Labor Day weekend with vengeance. The senselessness has me deeply worried.

I can walk the same route during the day and the thought of getting shot never crosses my mind. Not once do I ever say, "Gee, I hope I make it home in one piece tonight". But when the festivities start during the late hours on the weekend, I get weary. I don't want to see j'ouvert gone or worse, the annual parade itself cancelled because it is not fair for the majority of people who come this event and have a good time without engaging in violence and it's not a practical solution to the problem. It won't happen and it will never happen. What I would like to see happen from now until next year, is more steps taken that address this problem, from a security and social point of view that reduces or eliminates the problem altogether.

A lot of people enjoy the parade. The cops seem to enjoy the parade. It's kinda weird but in a light hearted way watching a white cop from the outer boroughs eat jerk chicken with rice and peas, something he probably never had in his entire life until that day.

And NY Post will do what they traditionally do and I don't expect them to present a neutral perspective about the parade or the festivities surrounding it. It's the fricking Post. A rag that publishes some of the worst images and stories known to the human race. It's liveleak on paper. I don't see them changing but I expect others in the media to be responsible and present an accurate portrayal of the parade without resorting to sensationalism. The organizers with the help of activists and local politicians need to counter this narrative and address gun violence and the culture of violence in the area.

Anonymous said...

Violence is violence. No need to distort things by using the phrase "gun violence". Btw, I thought guns were banned in nyc? O that's right, criminals don't obey the laws.

MikeF said...

"do they actually have a poll about whether the parade should be banned?"


It makes for easy click bait, and keeps readers on the site long enough to see the ads.

Anonymous said...

Mike, that statement is an indictment on our media and the public. The media drives the narrative, a ridiculous narrative and the public are suckers for falling for it. if there is one thing Americans do better than the rest of the world, it's infotainment.

Becky said...

Your and Cumbo's words are thoughtful, inspiring and hopeful. Thank you.

Anonymous said...

Errol Louis, 30 year crown Hts resident and grandson if Trini immigrants wrote in NY Daily News today that the j'ouvert organizers (known to be the worst organizers of city events) has NEVER had or requested a license for that event. Read what he wrote. He knows the longer history of it. Sigh. So the late night clubs and bars and the parades don't need licenses in this precinct. But I bet anything if I open a hipster beer garden in my backyard I get shut down after a week.

Clarkson FlatBed said...

Errol Louis is wrong. J'ouvert will continue to happen and violence will continue to happen on hot summer evenings. The disorganized organizers are no more responsible for someone shooting a gun than the movie theater owners for the Aurora massacre. It seems like Louis wants to make some statement - maybe he even knew the victim. But he's not going to fix the problem of shootings by shutting down this one event, or handing it off to another organizer. The parties will continue. The drinking will continue. The resentments that become murder will continue. And we'll have destroyed what's good about J'ouvert because of an idiot.

Anonymous said...

fights are one thing, shootings and stabbings are another. A local resident was quoted in papers saying, "Bullets don't have eyes". That is so true. I've been to many events, and jouvert isn't as organized as aome of the other events that I have attended. If you are going to have an open event like this, you need security. Lots of it to deal with the crowds in a neighborhood plagued with shootings. They don't know even bother to have a checkpoint system in place. I read many officers were told to look the other way when it pertained to alcoholic beverages unlike the strict enforcement they have during St Pattys and the PR Parade. We all should enjoy ourselves but we deserve the right to do so without worrying about getting shot.

Some West Indians that I know have complained for years about the lack of policing and the ruckus behavior from those attending during jouvert and their complaints have fallen in deaf for years until now. The side streets around the parade route are neglected until the parade starts. You don't see a heavy police presence. Errol Lewis isn't the first person to share his critique on this issue. It took an aide to the governor to start reevaluating the event but it's too little to late. It should have happened years ago. If jouvert continues, it needs to be properly organized to ensure everyone's safety or don't bother having it. Jouvert isn't going to go but there will be changes.

Anonymous said...

Why is he wrong Q? Did you read his opinion piece? He didnt say it should be cancelled altogether but that the organizers (J,ouvert International) must take an agressive approach in controlling this nighttime event or else they shouldn't host it. He actually offered some suggestions that i think would help reduce the violence that is often associated with event. He also stated that the community must do their part in helping the NYPD police this event. To use your words, you cannot have this "open air" carnival without having a plan. Shit will happen regardless. You've been very defensive lately and I don't know why that is. So what if the media are making hay of this? it doesn't change the facts surrounding this whole debate. Racists aren't going to shut their mouths regardless of what we do as a community. So stop worrying about them and focus on the issue at hand because it's a serious problem. Every year, it's the same thing, right before dawn, shots fired here, shots fired somewhere down EP. It never ends and it's time we all say enough is enough.

Clarkson FlatBed said...

Because he's grandstanding, pretending he's saying something new. Every year people say they're gonna fix it. Every year the police become more proactive. And every year violence breaks out somewhere. You can't stop a crime like this. I'm sorry. Everyone's up in arms, but what can they really do about it? Nothing. All the security in the world is not going to stop a messed up jerk from shooting a gun. That's basically what our precinct commander said. And you can't contain the all-night parties without, I don't know, a curfew or something totally un-NYC.

If what you're saying is create a closed event with security screening, then I suppose you can do that. But then it's not a parade, it's a concert. Which they already do. But as long as people are partying through the night leading up to the Parade (call it J'Ouvert or call it something else) this random violence will continue, just as it does nearly every weekend. We've got an enormous Caribbean population. You can't tell them to contain all the celebrations - they're, like, EVERYwhere. There were zillions of cops. I saw it. There were even cops right next to where the shooting took place for chrisakes.

It's just not feasible to do more than is being done.

Anonymous said...

Errol Louis is genuinely concerned and frustrated about violence in his community, he's worked hard to get crime down in Crown Hts over the years. That's so insulting to call it "grandstanding."

Clarkson FlatBed said...

I like Errol Louis. I listen to what he says carefully. He has great ideas most of the time; I should be allowed to disagree. It's not insulting to disagree with the analysis. In this case, I think he's making noise that has little meaning.

In the here and now, we need a clear and sensible attack on the problem to make clear that shootings, stabbings and beatings have no place at carnival and will be actively fought by the whole community, not just the police.

That's the line that I found hard to fathom. There have been many attempts made, legitimate ones, to make the whole thing safer. Not just J'ouvert. As you know there have been attacks and shootings at the Parade itself. And as far as I can tell, that Parade is extremely well organized. And has a permit. Hundreds of cops and barricades and rules. Does it seem to make any difference when a guy with a gun has a beef and the willingness to use it?

Maybe grandstanding is the wrong word. Sometimes though, I feel like people put their name on a piece in the paper just to show that they are properly outraged. We're ALL outraged. Someone has a plan? I'd love to hear it. I look forward to any sensible plan that will stop people from shooting one another, at Carnival or elsewhere.

Community led responses to gang and crew violence seem to have impact. And I've expressed here just how much I support such initiatives, like GMACC or SOS. But creating a response to individual shooters at parades, functions, house parties what-have-you...they're bound to fail because they all rely on chance. A lucky bet that some idiot won't do what he did the other night.

Alex said...

I don't know CF. I've lived here for a long time and seen many responses to J'ouvert. This year seems different. Feels like there's more intent behind the grandstanding, if you will.

Clarkson FlatBed said...

Okay, Alex. Now you're going to see my truly cynical side. The reason this year is different is that the victim is an aide to Cuomo. Cuomo is top dog in this state. All the politicians have to look good in his eyes to further their ambitions. Get my drift? They HAVE to look like they're doing something big.

The question remains. What the hell can you do about individuals intent on shooting someone? It's not like this guy said "I'm gonna save my bullets for J'Ouvert, won't THAT be something." Golly it's like people want to get inside the head of people who are screwed up and fix them? That's a totally different process and it takes more than a meeting or two. The events that were set in motion happened long, long, long before anyone applied for a permit, set up the barricades and started to play steel pans. I'm very frustrated that after every shooting people say "this has got to stop" but then there's no follow through. EXCEPT for the few people who really understand underlying conditions and want to change them. Including access to guns and creative, non-punitive interventions

I happen to like most of the politicians around here, so I'm not knocking anyone for wanting to respond. The circumstances seem cynical, that's why I'm calling it like I'm calling it.

Alex said...

I think I agree with you. Regardless, the calls for change seem more energized, sincere, and even actionable. Speaking cynically, perhaps it's also an excuse to systemically gentrify and change the reputation of the parade and the area, but it seems like the days of unlicensed parades might be numbered.

Personally, I'd like to see the Jesus people who block traffic be required to apply for a permit, too.

Anonymous said...

Why don't they teach the youth about the African-Carribbean roots of j'ouvert, why this event is celebrated and it's ties to the emancipation of slavery? I think it would make young people appreciate this festival as something sacred and give it a deep cultural understanding to everyone participating. Going forward, the focus should be on educating the public about it's roots as well as implementing changes in the planning of the event.

Clarkson FlatBed said...

I think the youth DO understand J'ouvert. That's why they're there. And 99.9% want to be safe and have a good time. Why would educating the massively majority non-violent revelers stop a gangsta or two?

Folks this is not about education. I don't even think it's about law enforcement. It's about the reality of gangs, guns, drugs and a history of disempowerment, disengagement and neglect. AND pathology, from wherever it comes. I guess I'll leave it here: this is NOT about J'ouvert. I think I've said it every way I can, so I'll stop now.

Andersen said...

Really turning it into a black vs white argument? Shame on you.