It seemed like an appropriate gesture to open the Ageless Summit in Laurelton last Thursday with a moment of silence for the passing of anti-apartheid leader Nelson Mandela.
Mandela, who passed away on the same day at the age of 95, stood as a symbol for many in Southeast Queens for equal rights and justice. And while the topic of apartheid wasn’t discussed, issues of equality and justice were covered by the two-hour event, which took place at St. Luke’s Church in Laurelton, and was moderated by community activist Tanequa Strong.
“My objective moving forward is to engage through targeted community interaction and ignite the fire needed to get all individuals, regardless of age, to come together and speak up and then take action as a community,” Strong said.
“My long-term vision is that individuals from all ages and backgrounds collaborate their thoughts on these crucial topics.”
The panel included political commentators Brandon Brice and Roy Paul, Councilman and soon-to-be Deputy Queens Borough President Leroy Comrie (D-St. Albans), the Rev. Phil Craig, attorney Jacques LeAndre, and state Sen. James Sanders (D-Jamaica).
One of the big topics was the controversial NYPD tactic of stop and frisk. While supported by Commissioner Ray Kelly and Mayor Bloomberg, Mayor-Elect Bill de Blasio has spoken out against it and made it a big part of his campaign for election.
LeAndre criticized the tactic calling it “degrading” and “dehumanizing.”
“I don’t think there are any black men in New York City who have one time not been stopped and frisked,” he said.
He also spoke out against the excessive force police have used, showing a video of the beating earlier this year of a Flushing teen whom he represented.
“We need a proper relationship with the police.” The attorney asked upstanding police officers to “weed out the rotten apples” who abuse their power.
When asked if it had to do with the clothes some youth wear, Comrie said it didn’t.
“People have been stopped wearing three-piece suits,” he said. “They want the Police Department to respect them. People don’t mind being stopped. They don’t like being abused.”
Sanders spoke about the necessity of young people getting jobs. He urged businesses in the area to give young people a chance.
“We’re going to have to create the jobs we need … the cavalry is not coming my friends,” he said. “The crisis is growing. We’re going to have to outthink this thing.”
He also implored the audience to shop locally and support small business in the area.
Strong is also against children having fatherless homes. She asked the all-male panel about what could be done to combat this.
Craig, whose ministry helps single fathers, said one of the reasons families aren’t stable is the lack of understanding among individuals.
“We can’t get along with one another,” he said. “We got a whole generation that’s mad and we don’t know what they’re mad about.”
Craig said the solution to this problem is that children should be put first.
“If we can learn how to just talk to one another and learn it’s not about you, it’s the child, there will be a whole change in the community,” he said.
Chuck Wright from Jamaica asked how blacks are portrayed in entertainment media and what could be done to counter the negative images.
“It’s always difficult to counter negative images,” Brice said. “The one thing that will really affect someone is if you take money from their pockets. If you don’t support it, don’t buy it.”
“We have to make sure the content that is on TV is serious,” Paul said concurring with Brice.