Hundreds of marchers took to the streets of Jamaica Sunday evening to spread messages of peace and nonviolence in response to the rising acts of violence in Southeast Queens, the Bronx and other parts of the city.
Many donned bright orange shirts provided by the activist organization The Peacekeepers, while others carried signs calling for gun control or memorials for those who died due to violence. Area politicians, relatives of crime victims, celebrities and concerned residents all marched from 111th Avenue and Sutphin Boulevard to the Baisley Houses chanting “Stop the Violence!” and “We Want Peace!”
Before the march started, Def Jam Records founder Russell Simmons commended the people who came out to deliver their message of peace.
“The work that we do is a prayer,” the Hollis native and hip-hop mogul said. “When the community sees it, it’s for ourselves and it’s inspiring to the people around us and it means everything.”
He also told the marchers about the importance of mentoring and looking out for young people.
“We’ve got to mentor and work with and give some kind of hope to the people in the community, especially some of the young kids in the hood who don’t understand that there is a lot of potential in them,” Simmons said. “When they see that we care that matters.”
Erica Ford, an activist who founded Life Camp, a nonprofit organization dedicated to preventing youth violence and providing opportunities for youth who disadvantaged, helped organize the march along with The Peacekeepers. Ford said that everyone coming and working together is a difference maker.
“It’s us that’s going to protect our community, it’s us that’s going to change what’s happening in our community,” she said. “It’s us working together that can make a difference.”
Elected officials who marched also emphasized the importance of looking out for area youth.
“We as a community are going to come back and tell all and let them know that we are going to stand for peace and not see our young kids, our young ones, dying because of violence,” Rep. Gregory Meeks (D-Jamaica) told the marchers. “That’s what this is all about. We’re going to make a difference.”
City Councilman Ruben Wills (D-Jamaica) was amazed at the turnout but said participants then have to take it to the next level.
“We got two or three blocks long worth of people from all walks of life from our community,” Wills said. “I think to occupy the corners is a good first step. We’re going to try to occupy the hearts and minds of the young people to really turn them around and get them on the right road.”
Among the next of kin who marched was Shanton Herndon, the aunt of 18-year-old Darryl Adams, who was shot and killed in March. “I’m here to support everybody and to stop the violence,” Herndon said. “There are too many kids dying.”
She is adamant that guns be taken off the street as one way to solve the violence. “Burn them all,” Herndon said.