The agony of gun violence something that we as a people are all numb to at this point in time. So numb that it is often forgotten within our communities. In the midst of a whirlwind that we called the year 2020, hiding behind a pandemic and a revolution for black liberation, gun violence spikes like it usually does every summer.
It has become the pain in our sides that suddenly erupts into a violent suffering that we’re used to at this moment in time.For so long we’ve seen our youth crumble under the pressures of lack of resources, trauma, and limited Outlets.
And the results become the violent attacks on each other taking each other’s lives. For so long gang violence has become a rushing whirlpool of death and destruction swirling in the middle of our lakes and we call our communities. Most of the time we swim past them, attempting to stop the waves that are pushing against each other that cause such violence swirls in our waters.
On Tuesday July 28th, 2020, The communities of Schenectady and Albany addressed the swirling madness head on. On this day we “held court” in the streets of Schenectady. Several black leaders sat down and held a press conference, and open conversation about gun violence in that community.they addressed the tragedies that we face within our own communities, having a conscious, and tough conversation within ourselves to shed light on some of the horrible realities we live in.
Organized by William Rivas, Co-founder of Save our streets in Schenectady, 4 black men sat down and held a conversation with both the youth, and the people of their community with news in the police chief in a few officers standing by to witness the conversation.
Their names are Alfredo Smalls, Co-founder of Save our Streets located in Schenectady, Ali Walker, Co founder of Band of Brothers located in Albany, shaquan Page, Co founder of Nationally touching greatness inc., and Delivery Cooper, Co Founder of Nationally Touching Greatness inc.
Talking to the Youth
The initial conversation began with the youth.The four men spoke about their experiences growing up and dealing with community violence. The goal was to highlight their trauma and show the youth not only their value, but to steer them away from Street culture and it’s violent, vicious cycles.
What this does is it gives youth in our communities a visual of people who have lived a Lifestyles that have sucked so many into, given them someone to look up to, and experience what they’ve experienced or are experiencing.
It opens up a conversation, a channel between those that have been through the streets, and the youth. Attempting to give them and an education on street life and its traumas.
The gentlemen talked about gang culture and its origins, as bloods and Crips were originally supposed to be community organizations. Gave the youth insite about gang culture as three of the four men were active gang members that have denounced gang violence.
“ It was always about making sure our community stays intact”, “ and somewhere along the line, we lost that” -Alfredo Smalls
The gentlemen described their experiences in street life, all explaining in a certain way or fashion being at the wrong place, at the wrong time due to circumstances that heavily influenced them. They discussed the prison system, per youth questioning, giving them knowledge on what horrors would await the youth if they choose to follow in their footsteps.
“ be a leader, not a follower”- Delivery Cooper
Following the conversation with the youth, The men held court, holding a conversation about the street life within the community. As Founders of their own organizations, they are all active members to create change within their communities through the youth.
The goal of the conversation was to highlight the violence within their communities. This means having an honest conversation about the violence. How it’s hurting the community, its origins, the reasons why the violence occurs. This was a raw and honest conversation designed to open the world up to the life of the streets. A conversation about understanding and accountability. An opportunity to hold court, and become the change within the communities we live in.
“These kids need physical discipline, they need mental discipline, they need spiritual discipline” – Page
With News cameras and the chief of Schenectady police present, these four brave gentlemen had a conversation with members of the community. They spoke about how and why they chose the street life. They revealed the myriad of traumas that plagued their lives which attributed to their decisions. They responded to community members and addressed the spiking gun violence in the communities within the 518.
What makes this important? This is important because these are members of the community, in the community daily, addressing the community they come from. These are men who lived in the very places they’re trying to save, revealing to the world their experiences. What makes this important is that these are faces that look like the kids committing violence, expressing their grievances in a real conversation.
Accountability, and healing
A conversation about decisions, influences, pain, loss, lack of resources, all coming from those that have dealt with these factors in the black community. All coming from those that refuse to allow the next generation to grow up with the same problems they did. A valiant effort, to make real change in their neighborhoods.
“ we’re not healing. There’s no way you’re going to tell me to cease fire, when I’m hurt.” Smalls said as he followed up stating he had been in 28 funerals in 36 months at one point and time in his life.
Something that weighs heavily in this conversation was the topic of trauma. As said before, each individual faced some sort of hurt, or trauma growing up. This in combination with the environments they grew up in, denying them the ability to find positive outlets for said trauma. The results, violence, or violent acts that put road black in their lives.
“ they need a reliable consistent source of morality”- page discussing what kids need in these communities.
The conversation of trauma of black men is a powerful takeaway from this conversation. All of the men addressed growing up without influences and trauma at a certain point. All of them discussed the influences that weren’t positive in their lives that led them to the pathway to the choices they made. They discussed how their peers influenced them, one gentleman discussed how he was exceptional in school, but the rest of his world was filled with trauma and bad decisions.
“ I was in accelerated classes, but at the same time I was the baddest kid in school”-Shaquan Page. “ These kids need people to talk to”
If we are to understand how to address the rising violence, we need to understand the psychology of these men. Men who had broken homes, and broken dreams. The hope ripped from their membranes at a young age because the street life was more appealing.
Men who didn’t have positive influences from others around them to allow them to flourish in their light at young ages. It is important to understand this segment of the conversation in order to bring change. This is because once we understand why the violence is occurring, the real why, not the ongoing beefs that happen within the communities. No, the hurt, the rules to manhood that have plagued black men for decades.
“ I didn’t cry for my family, I’m not healed. We got to start to heal.” Smalls
Alfredo Smalls and his mother had a touching moment that explained this very topic. When she asked what she could’ve done more of he simply told her that there was nothing she could’ve done. The healing came from men.
The conversations of black men having outlets that aren’t violent. Having a way to express themselves without picking up a gun, or demeaning another or harming another. This is the conversation that will wield the most weight when holding court in the streets. This is why we held court in the streets. To address the pain these men have experienced and lashed out on others. To converse about the pain that black men in our communities fall through every single day, and to have a real genuine conversation about these said obstacles we face.
In essence, we need outlets. We need access to opportunities. We need better healthcare opportunities and ways to save the youth from the horrors of poverty and the streets. Holding court in the streets was a call to action by members for members of the community to take command and not only demand these outlets from the system, but from those able in the community who can create the resources and control them within the community.
“Instead of asking for a seat at the table, we’re creating our own table.” William Rivas