Bed-Stuy Residents Rally Against Gun Violence
BEDFORD-STUYVESANT — As two boys walked through Herbert Von King Park on Monday evening, they stopped to take in the sights.
But rather than enjoying the bright sun and freshly-cut grass, the two young men stood wide-eyed looking at more shocking images: portraits of prison shivs, jail cells and prisoners in solitary confinement.
Lorenzo Steele Jr., a 48-year-old former correction officer who now works to warn kids about the dangers of gun violence and prison life, approached the boys as they looked at the small exhibit.
"You're out here with your freedom," Steele said. "You've got people behind bars wishing they were you."
Steele was just one of dozens of activists and organizations in the park for Monday's rally to end gun violence, a three-hour event designed to help teens stay away from violence through intervention and activities.
Sponsored by neighborhood groups including DIVAS for Social Justice and 500 Men Making a Difference along with central Brooklyn City Councilman Robert Cornegy, the event was a response to what activists said is a culture of gun violence hurting the community.
"Kids don't know the consequences of negative choices and decisions," Steele said. "Once that bullet goes through the chamber, somebody's life is destroyed."
Monday's event came just two months after a "day of silence" in the park, in which Bed-Stuy residents listened as the names of shooting victims were read aloud. The April 5 event was inspired by the shooting death of Angel Rojas on a B15 bus by 14-year-old gang member Kahton Anderson.
With Monday's rally, in honor of "Gun Violence Awareness Month," organizers hoped to reach kids like Kahton before they pick up a gun.
"We want to make sure we engage the youth, and give them enough things to do in the community that are actually positive," said Cyriac St. Vil, a 38-year-old volunteer with Bed-Stuy nonprofit 500 Men Making a Difference.
Attendees walked the grounds at Von King collecting information from groups like the Legal Aid Society, the Bed-Stuy Family Health Center and the New York City Commission on Human Rights.
Cornegy, who also participated in a panel discussion in the park's amphitheater, said he hoped Monday's rally could help give people options and allow kids to become less desensitized.
"Some people are just throwing their hands up in the air, believing they don't have any recourse," Cornegy said. "Those already doing the work are here today."