Tag Archives: National Action Network

March on Washington remembered on 50th anniversary


| lguerre@queenscourier.com

Photo courtesy of Jamiah Adams

The NAACP and Reverend Al Sharpton’s National Action Network co-hosted a March on Washington on August 24, to celebrate the 50th anniversary of the march led by Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.

The event, which paid tribute to King’s “I Have a Dream” speech and the struggle for equal rights, was headlined by speeches from various minority leaders at the National Mall in Washington, D.C.

The crowd at the event stretched from the Lincoln Memorial to the length of the reflecting pool, much like it had a half-century ago. Speakers emphasized that the struggle is not over.

“This is not the time for a nostalgic commemoration, nor is this the time for self-congratulatory celebration, the task is not done, the journey is not complete, we can and we must do more,” said Martin Luther King III, an activist and the eldest of Dr. King’s children. “Sadly the tears of Trayvon Martin’s mother and father remind us that far too frequently, the color of one’s skin remains a license to profile, to arrest and to even murder with no regard for the content of one’s character.”

Archie Spigner, who was the councilmember of District 27 in Queens until 2001, said the event reflects that we still have to fight for an equal world.

As a labor activist 50 years ago, Spigner attended the original March on Washington, but couldn’t make the march this year.

“I think that Martin Luther King (Jr.) was a gifted orator,” Spigner said. “It was a masterful speech. That’s why that speech still holds to day.”

The speeches were made on Saturday, but the true anniversary is on Wednesday, August 28. There will be another March on Washington then as well, highlighted by a speech by President Barack Obama.

 

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Queens community comes together to stop the violence


By Queens Courier Staff | editorial@queenscourier.com

QC05162013.pdf - Adobe Acrobat

As politicians at all levels try to combat gun violence through legislation, local groups seeing issues within their communities have taken a grassroots approach to keeping neighborhoods safe.

“Upon my release from prison, I wanted to make sure today’s youth didn’t fall into the same traps that I fell into,” said Lance Feurtado.

He and his brother co-founded the King of Kings, an anti-violence group in southeast Queens. They started the group in 2005, a year after Feurtado was released from prison. Their main goal is to reduce shootings and killings.

Feurtado set his sights on the Redfern Community Houses in Far Rockaway. After a shooting in broad daylight took place there, he hit the ground running.

King of Kings also goes on anti-drug and anti-gang tours to educate young people about the consequences of a violent lifestyle, the hidden dangers of drugs and what to do if you are pulled over by police.

I am “a former drug kingpin. I’m an ex-gang member,” Feurtado said. “We can relate first-hand to what the youth are going through. We lived it, we survived it.”

Feurtado also hosts a series of community events such as an annual “Friends for Life” breakfast.

Reverend Phil Craig is another activist active in the borough. The president of the Queens chapter of the National Action Network hosts youth town halls about violence in the community.

“The children, you can tell they’re dealing with a tug-and-pull situation,” he said. “A lot of their friends are attracted to this violent type of lifestyle. It makes them feel important.”

Craig and others in the chapter work to instill a different type of importance in young people—one where they can see themselves being successful off the streets.

“They can make a difference,” Craig said. “Negativity is contagious, but if we can change it around, the positive could become contagious.”

Craig said a big part of reducing violence among youths is getting parents involved and establishing a balanced household structure—something he said many homes in his area lack.

“There’s a gap they can’t fill at home, and these kids are out running around in the streets to try and fill it,” he said.

Out there, young people get territorial, said Manny Fiallo, the outreach coordinator for the Police Athletic League (PAL) in Far Rockaway. Fiallo is also a parent coordinator at the Department of Education (DOE).

“Kids feel like they can’t go to certain places,” he said. “But it’s one peninsula, it’s one Rockaway.”

Last year, Fiallo worked to put on a basketball tournament in memory of Stack Bundles, a local rapper who he said youths respect. The event was so successful that Fiallo is hosting it again and hopes to make it an annual event. The tournament travels throughout the peninsula. Fiallo said it helps break barriers by putting participants in areas they may not usually travel to.

“It involves the whole community, it’s about the whole community,” he said.

Aside from the tournament, Fiallo’s group has hosted teen job fairs and is trying to get a GED program expanded to accommodate 23- to 28-year-olds.

On summer weekends, Craig and the National Action Network occupy corners and try to get young people off the streets.

“One of the things I’ve observed, at 1 a.m., you have kids walking in the streets in packs. They can’t be more than 13 or 14 years old,” he said.

Organizations like Craig’s are trying to stop the violence once and for all.

“When people know each other, there’s less of a tendency [toward] tension” in the community, Feurtado said.

-BY MAGGIE HAYES & TERENCE M. CULLEN

 

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Mother of slain National Guardsman vows justice despite grand jury ruling


| aaltman@queenscourier.com

Photo courtesy of Facebook

Even after the verdict was final, Cecilia Reyes vowed her son would get justice.

Reyes, the mother of Noel Polanco, the 22-year-old National Guardsman who was killed by a police officer during a traffic stop on the Grand Central Parkway on October 4, was outraged by the court’s ruling that her son’s killer would not be tried.

On February 14, after five weeks of deliberations, a Queens grand jury determined criminal charges would not be filed against Hassan Hamdy, the NYPD officer who fatally shot Polanco. In a statement, District Attorney Richard A. Brown indicated he would not provide the reason behind the grand jury’s decision and called Polanco’s death “a tragedy.”
Regardless of the ruling, Reyes remained determined to ensure her son, who aspired to become a police officer, did not die in vain.

Joined by Polanco’s sister Amanda, Reyes addressed the grand jury’s ruling at the National Action Network’s (NAN) Harlem headquarters on February 16. NAN founder the Rev. Al Sharpton gave the eulogy at Polanco’s funeral and has remained invested in the case.

“I’m very upset. I’m very, very angry at the justice system,” said Reyes. “I’m angry. I’m hurt. They didn’t do the justice that they needed to do for my son. But I’m not giving up. I’m continuing on and I’m going to fight with every being in my life.”

Polanco was pulled over when he was spotted driving erratically in his black 2012 Honda Fit, weaving between lanes and speeding on the Grand Central Parkway before allegedly cutting off an unmarked police vehicle. Hamdy allegedly fired the single shot that killed Polanco when he told him to put his hands on the steering wheel and Polanco reached under the seat. Testimony from two eye witnesses driving with Polanco, Diane DeFerrari, a bartender and Polanco’s neighbor, and Vanessa Rodriguez, an off-duty police officer, persisted with the claim that Polanco followed orders from the officer.

No weapon was discovered in Polanco’s car.

“My son had no weapon and yet the officer gets away with this,” said Reyes. “If it was to be someone else in the street, right away they would prosecute this kid – this officer was still a murderer, no matter what.”

According to reports, the family intends to pursue the case in civil court.

 

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