Urban League Tackles Youth Violence in Harlem At Schomburg

Violence amongst the youth is a major issue in the Harlem community. In a backdrop of what in so many cases are senseless tragedies, it seems like at times the only answers that come forth are heavier police presence, which doesn’t always address the core issues with the youth. There are multi-layered reasons as to why youth in Harlem feel dejected and without hope. This was the pressing concern of yesterday’s meeting, sponsored by the New York Urban League. Titled Law and Disorder: Developing Partnerships for Peace, this gathering of community activists, law enforcement officials, and civic leaders impressed upon the audience a sense of urgency. Flowing from past meetings, and a concern for promoting a dialog on what involves safe neighborhoods, the focus was solutions.

Amongst the things discussed by the panel was the issue of the mentality of far too many young people in Harlem. “We have to deal with the mental health of our young people”, said Iesha Sekou, community activist and Executive Director of Street Corner Resources. The panel and audience who expressed supporting nods were in agreement that one major factor of violence in the Harlem community is a sense of despair. Today’s youth have to contend with indifferent teachers, overcrowded classrooms, and less constructive activities to pursue in their own neighborhoods.  This combined with a lack of activities, is a breeding ground for troubled youth.

The key thing about this meeting was that the typical band-aid solutions of more police, without factoring in the real distrust of the NYPD in some communities, was discussed in a broader context of multiple approaches to dealing with youth violence. Phillip Banks III, Chief of Community Affairs noted that local law enforcement have to be in cooperation with the community to be effective. In addition to that, he also noted that its important for concerned members in the community to know who the precinct commanding officer is. This is a complex issue, with no easy solutions. However, the fact that this conversation is ongoing, and that there are serious people working towards resolving these problems is an indication that Harlem does care about its youth.  For more information, see the Street Corner Resources website.

Marc W. Polite



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