#EndGunViolence: Why Brooklyn Students Choose Black and Orange

Crickets and bells could be heard outside of Borough Hall in Downtown Brooklyn. It’s 4 a.m. on a Wednesday morning. Students and activists, clad in black, began to slowly gather on the sidewalk as they waited for their charter bus to Washington, D.C last week.

The National #EndGunViolence Rally on Capitol Hill was held on Sept. 25, 2019. The group of mostly black and brown faces, from either Brownsville or surrounding neighborhoods in Brooklyn, wore black in solidarity for those who lost their lives from gun violence. Orange on their signs represent anti-gun violence awareness.

In the spotlights from the building, people looked mostly contemplative and sleepy. Brooklyn Borough President (BP) Eric Adams, also in black and sporting the trademark #EndGunViolence T-shirt, was already at the helm answering questions from the press.

“In reality, the gun violence epidemic happens in the Brooklyn’s of America.”

-Brooklyn Borough President (BP) Eric Adams

The Brownsville mass shooting at the Old Timer’s Festival in Brooklyn this summer, resulting in one dead and 11 injured, was just one of the many shootings in 2019 that inspired the rally. As of Oct. 17, Kyle Williams, a 20-year-old Brownsville resident, was arrested and confessed to the shooting.

From October 2018 to this October, statistics from the City of New York Police Department indicate that within the main precincts that service Brownsville, namely the 73rd and 67th, there have been 49 shooting incidents in total. Collectively, New York City in the last few decades has had a significant decrease in general gun violence and crime, but it has yet to abolish it.

Group photo of the ‘Brooklyn Says #EndGunViolence’ volunteers

Borough President Adams credits three students in his employ from CUNY’s City Tech and Brooklyn College that introduced the initiative to him and his office. Hercules Reid, Kevin Ferguson, and Brianna Suggs, pushed for Brooklyn to be apart of the larger, national conversation about gun violence and legislation; echoing efforts from representative of their district Congresswoman Yvette Clarke. “We want to utilize today as an opportunity to spread a message to end gun violence,” said Hercules Reid, Assistant to the Deputy Borough President & Community Coordinator.

Before the break of dawn the bus began it’s journey south. They head onward into an annoying bout of traffic and then to the House Judiciary Committee meeting led by Congressman Jerry Nadler at the Rayburn House Office building in the capital.

The hearing on banning assault weapons began at 10 a.m. According to congressional records, the Assault Weapons Ban of 2019 was introduced to the House of Representatives back in January. The ban is meant to regulate semiautomatic pistols, rifles, and shotguns with large capacity rounds. The ban was updated in February, but has not passed into law yet.

The House Judiciary Committee is also working on accompanying bills called the Keep Americans Safe Act, which makes it a criminal offense to buy and sell large capacity magazines; and the Freedom From Assault Weapons Act, which takes automatic weapons and ammunition out of current circulation.

In opposition to the ban, Amy Swearer, Senior Legal Policy Analyst for Heritage Foundation, said that legislation against “law-abiding” gun owners is counterproductive. “Just last week,” said Swearer during the hearing, “a homeowner in Rockdale County, Georgia relied on his scary-looking semi-automatic assault weapon to defend himself against three masked teens, armed with at least one handgun who tried to rob him and other residents in their own front yard.” She maintains that assault weapons for citizens used in defense of life should be protected.

Youth attendees relax in the shade of the trees along Capitol Hill while the rally against guns continues.

“That’s not necessarily true,” said Jasmeet Sidhu, a lead researcher for Amnesty International, in response to the claim that gun control laws wouldn’t work.”It’s not proven, it’s actually a misnomer.” The report she worked on, named “In the Line of Fire: Human Rights and The U.S Gun Violence Crisis,” was published last year. It states that the government should enforce standards for guns to prevent them from being used by private individuals to abuse human rights.

Most recorded mass shootings do use “conventional firearms” stated the report, but high-profiled mass shootings that use assault weapons; in recent years have garnered attention of lawmakers and the public once again. Assault weapons were once banned in the U.S from 1994 to 2004.

The report also points out that gun violence and homicides disproportionately affect minority communities and young black men because of imprecise terms like “gang activity.” The historical socio-economic and discriminatory factors at play further complicate the issue.

“We don’t classify mass shootings, if a gang member is involved. So you’re basically stating those shootings that take place in the cities of America are not considered mass shootings,” said Borough President Adams, “In that case you would never have a mass shooting classification in the communities of color.”

The actual rally was held on the west-lawn of the Capitol Hill, overlooking the obelisk and reflecting pool in the far distance and the grander-than-life Capitol Building looming just behind the podium.

The people sing songs and chant phrases like “Ditch Mitch” or “Do Your Job” in the hot, bright afternoon sun. They’re referring to Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell hesitating to pass gun control laws. “If I were him I would hope not to make decisions based on party lines,” said Sidhu, who also attended the rally.

“Gun violence plays into it because it traumatizes people, and through trauma people act out. Whether it be from domestic violence in the household, crime or access to a gun.”

Outreach Worker Wallee Comer of Brooklyn-based organization G.M.A.C.C., or Gangsta’s Making Astronomical Community Changes.

There members of Congress, Senator Chuck Schumer, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, celebrity rapper Common, and countless young witnesses to gun violence cry out against the current administration.

Other states represented in the crowds of protestors included Chicago, Minnesota, Texas and Virginia. They showed up by the dozens in T-shirts emblazoned with white logos that read #EndGunViolence. Some holding photocopies of their loved ones, friends, or neighbors that have been victims of gun fire.

They demand change.

Untitled Poem:

While I’m trying to get an education,
The nation is held by anticipation.
We hold our breaths,
Wondering what the duration
Of time it will be
Before another maniac with a gun steps forward,
And America puts one foot toward
Becoming a place where this is normal.
I’m not trying to take your weapons,
I’m just trying to step in
Weigh in my opinion
Even when some say it’s not my dominion
I have a right to my opinion
So tell the alt-right,
The NRA’s minions,
I know the constitution
That makes up our democracy,
But I hoped you had the common decency
To put down verbal attacks
And put a stop to the hypocrisy.
How many kids must have
Red roses bloom through their chest
Before you realize
That change must be made soon
There’s no time to rest
It’s not enough
To just place an arrest
On a single gunman,
We need revolution and leaders
Like Hamilton, like Harriet Tubman.
We need change now
To make the list of dead kids count.
Because if not,
Us kids will grow and take our shot
Not with a gun, but with a vote
When we grow
You’ll no longer see our voices as remote.

–By Oluwaseun Showumni, currently a sophomore at Towson University. Born in NY, raised in MD, written when she was 17 in response to school shootings.

Canarsie Dog Owners Skeptical of Local Animal Shelter

The Canarsie Kennel Club meet every first Saturday in Canarsie Park at Seaview Ave. and 88th St for their monthly Meet and Greet event, at which two dogs, lost and dirty, were found wandering around and taken in by members. The dog owners in the club, as well as pet owners in the Canarsie community, are reluctant to send stray or rescue animals to the only available animal shelter that is three miles away.

The dogs, a young black female Patterdale terrier and a blonde Pitbull, were found around 8 a.m. by three of the members in the kennel club. With the help of experienced dog trainer, Marquise Berry, and pet owner, Richard Want, the dogs were coaxed out of hiding and given food and water. Their ears were fly bitten and they smelled strongly of urine. According to Berry, they were soiled enough to indicate they’d both been in cages for a long time. It is still unclear if both of the dogs had the same unknown owner.

Canarsie Kennel Club and Canarsie Improvement Association Co-Founder, Leanne Desvignes said “I don’t know what we’re going to do. We can’t leave them here. This has never happened at a meeting before.”


(Left) Marquise Berry, local dog trainer and owner of New Era Dog Training company, and (right) Richard Want helps rescue a blonde Pitbull and a Patterdale in Canarsie Park.

In the Canarsie neighborhood, there are currently three animal clinics but does not have its own animal shelter. The closest one is the Animal Care Center of NYC located on Linden Blvd in East New York, but pet owners are reluctant about it because of its kill policy.

“If we call that’s where she’s going to end up,” said Berry, on how to handle the dogs. The members opted to keep the dogs at their houses instead of calling the authorities or taking them to the shelter.

Dr. Peter Gusmorino of the Animal Clinic of Canarsie, that sometimes partners with the Linden Shelter, has been working in Canarsie for 30 years. He said the population has gone up in the neighborhood and there have been a few trends that he’s noticed. “I’ve seen less of the puppy mill dogs. Used to see a lot more of those. Now it’s more from shelters,” said Dr. Gusmorino. He remained neutral about the kill policy at the Linden shelter.

An Animal Care Open-Admissions Center, or commonly referred to as kill shelter, “accepts any animal that comes through its doors, no matter its medical or behavioral condition. As a result, decisions about placements are often based on resources and space availability, the health and the temperament of the animals at the given time.” It also means that there is regrettably a time limit on how long animals can stay in the shelter with overcrowding being a main issue.

Pet owners in Canarsie find the center’s policy to be understandable, but definitely an uncomfortable topic among animal lovers, many of which hoped to use the shelter as a last possible option.

“They’re a kill shelter but I can understand,” said Greg Hassett, a shopkeeper at Pete’s Pet Supplies, “There’s only one in the area. They could open one in the many abandoned buildings like on 95th and Glenwood. Been empty for I don’t know how long.”


New blonde Pitbull found that morning

The Canarsie Kennel Club members kept the dogs in their homes for about two weeks while  advertising their photos and contact info for the strays on their Facebook page. The Patterdale was found a good home with an elderly couple who had recently lost their dog. The Pitbull is still temporarily at a member’s home until she can be placed.

To My First Love

Hello Brooklyn,

The first time it hit me that I was in love with you B, thought it was bugged how you had me. Talked about you to my friends, acquaintances, co workers constantly, like let me introduce you to this dude I knew. Come through, I’ve got someone I want to show you. It was unbelievable, that new shit. Name on my tongue, scribbling shit cross my notebook since May 23rd, birth. My foretold, my first.

Fresh, like grade school when I stumbled through the phonics of my parents language. Clumsy, children running with ice cream cones, elated by the frozen joy they’ve been sold and the elusive notion that it will all be gone soon. Ice on a steaming stove, love was dripping off my chin, Brooklyn. My style was molded to my speech in the exact shape that you picked out for me. You taught me how to think, and I didn’t mind because I trusted you mind and soul. I walked through the streets bigging you up to everyone I knew, defending your slandered name, until you took a swing and my face was your aim.

Safe to say I had to go, yet I thought without a doubt that you loved me. Who was going to take me in? This chick with an accent and attitude accentuated to suit you. This chick with secrets that sometimes came unglued at just the wrong moments.

My love laid dormant while I bounced around    from house to house  until he caught me. You know Poetry wasn’t just an affair he was my passion. I love him unconditionally because I know he’d never leave me.

Days spent after school when I should’ve been doing homework, I wrote him. Notes, letters, words, verbs, similes laid sweetly next to metaphors and phrases, quotes, scribbles, and rants. Guess he had me open. I’d wake up at 3 am with his voice in my ear, touching each one of my thoughts until they strapped suicide bombs to their chests and explode with new ideas and ways for me to love him.

We were so real that I’m sorry Brooklyn but that first thing didn’t appeal. We were inseparable. I couldn’t get enough, like platanos and collard greens.

I’ll always miss you, but

He listened to me.

Cuddled up to my natural kush, I wanted to be with him more than anything

fated to be

like a Vandross rift

like coolaid sugar stains lingering on my smiling lips

I thanked God for this poetical gift and a green notebook to hold my words down whenever inspiration kicks up.

Don’t misunderstand one day I will come back, because the voice I found with you helped stumble every word I ever wrote into existence. There is more to be done where I am. I can’t abandon him.

Just know you are here with me in the things I carry.


The Poet



I Walk

I walk

Hearts beat slow like molasses

Classes cant teach this

Cold flashes as wind passes

Little faces pressed up against glasses

Intense invincibility crashes

I walk

Through poets snaps

Heads high under fitted caps

Down piss stairwells and rainbow train maps

Past tense strangers as litter makes laps around the tracks

I walk

By gangs of accents that flood these streets

Red and black pleats on the scarves that match the weaves

Heats me headphones spill with fierce beats

Cars breathe

I walk

Seeing encroaching high risers and pushy condos forcing out mom and pop stores

Franchises envying the space across the project mother’s floors

While workers huddle exiled nicotine in front of their doors

Corner hustlers beg for more

I walk

Dreadlocks swing free as sirens sing

Birds screech while fluttering cross musical intersections that play for buildings

I walk

Triumphant stut past soup kitchen line where my father spent some time

Anklet bells chime like inmate shackles as they echo in the officers eyes that watch mines

Pupils black like trigger happy minds patrolling the confines of my borough

I walk

Past Brooklyn roots sucking memories out these trees

Fleets of preachers moving boulders

Africa seats himself amid the sunset on his knees

Praying for the priests in the country of nativity

I walk

Flipping my hair to portrait still water in a writer’s paradise

Helicopter star lights freckle the night hates on my smile lit bright like a torch carrier’s stride the day feels right

I walk

It seems all roads lead to the county of kings

Where drunks marry these blocks children liquor fiends

& conceit glistens off door knocker earrings

The hood stings like

Corruption flowing into my dreams

Like the sound of a smack to the back of the head as it rings

Like 10 000 mosquitoes bites on one of them hot ass summer nights

I walk

Admiring gargoyles that architects took time to chip into existence

Too bad they don’t exist in neighborhoods where copper skin is plentiful sense

Their meant to keep out bad spirits

This painful shutout we spray paint onto the breast of our buildings

Given shades of cool mints and reds so when the sun hits

It sprouts yellows and oranges in different hues

So beautiful that in blissful unawareness the bricks drink  our pride

images (24)so we are unashamed to walk in the daytime

© Perception 2011, Ariama Long