Residents and leaders in southeast Queens — joined by a famous native son — marched recently to return peace to their increasingly violence-filled streets.
The Sunday, August 19 rally, organized by The Peacekeepers Global Initiative, drew hundreds of locals bothered by the outbreak of shootings the area has witnessed — as well as parents who have buried children due to the violence.
“We need to make sure that we make our community a safe and decent place to live,” said Dennis Muhammed, founder of The Peacekeepers.
Murders are up 29 percent in Queens South this year, according to CompStat.
Joining the march was Queens native Russell Simmons, who said he was inspired by the neighborhood’s turnout.
“We have to give some sort of hope to the people in the community,” the Def Jam co-founder said. “Young kids in the hood don’t understand that there’s a lot of potential in them and when they see that we care, it matters.”
Parents of children lost to guns marched hand-in-hand with Simmons before speaking to the crowd in the Baisley Park Houses.
“My son was a good kid, he played ball, didn’t bother anybody, he was a momma’s boy. He turned 19 February 2; they murdered him March 2,” Shanta Merritt, mother of Darryl Adams, who was killed in Jamaica, said between tears. “I’m going to do anything and everything that I can to be a voice for my son. I don’t want this to happen to anyone else.”
As the march moved from Sutphin Boulevard and 111th Avenue to the Baisley Houses, residents came out, with some joining the march and the chants to reclaim the streets for peace.
“It’s us that’s going to protect our community, it’s us that’s going to change what’s happening in our communities, it’s only us working together that can make a difference in what going on in our communities,” said Erica Ford, founder of LIFE Camp, a violence prevention advocacy group.
The community has been calling for something to be done that will help end the violence, but leaders agreed the rally needed to be only the beginning of the change.
“We do have a responsibility and that responsibility is to make sure this is not just an event, a one-time affair,” said Congressmember Gregory Meeks. “We need to be back out here when there’s no cameras, when there’s no attention.”