Finding the ‘Right Things’ After Fatal Police Shooting

Non-profit organization Redemption perform a skit on “peer pressure, gangs and guns” as part of a seminar to help East Flatbush teens grow up in a rough environment. (Aisha Asif/The Brooklyn Ink)

Irony colored the gym walls of Tilden High School in East Flatbush, Brooklyn, this past Saturday when high schoolers attended a youth seminar on how to deal with the challenges facing them such as gang violence and interactions with police. The event had been planned in advance but happened to fall almost a week after the NYPD shot and killed East Flatbush teen Kimani Gray. Aisha Asif reports on the seminar for The Brooklyn Ink.

The workshops on gang violence, sex education, and domestic violence and ‘know your rights’ training on how to interact with the police had been planned for weeks, they held a particularly new relevance for the East New York community following Gray’s death and the ensuing community unrest that led to the arrest of 46 people organizers said.

Councilman Jumaane D. Williams and Students Taking Action Today organized the event. The latter, which consists of New York City high school and college students, was founded by the councilman’s office, and organizes events on community issues for teens.

Activities involved, among others, dance routines and skits. The non-profit youth group Redemption performed a skit which touched on “peer pressure, gangs and guns,” depicted through a dispute acted out by its student members. They then asked the audience to give alternatives to solving the problem.

A former substitute teacher also spoke at the seminar. She knew the environment in which young residents of East Flatbush grew up, but perhaps a generation gap lingers in place for adults like her and Councilman Williams, who stressed to teens to speak up to bridge that void.

“They’re in community environments that are not safe. They don’t know how to respond rather than react,” said Mary Walker Miller, a resident of East Flatbush for 17 years. The former substitute teacher said marches and resource sessions Williams has been holding for young adults the last three years to help them learn to combat police brutality and violence within their communities have helped youths stay safe and defend themselves.

Williams said, as an adult, he is not as aware of the troubles plaguing youths. He urged teens to reach out to him and make suggestions as to how he could better address their needs.

“Please don’t walk away saying this was a waste of time,” he said. “Please let us know what should have been here so the next time…we can have the right things.”

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