Harris, Coney Island Residents Take On Violence In The Neighborhood

Convening over a continental breakfast, Assemblymember Pamela Harris (D-Coney Island, Bay Ridge) and about 130 Coney Island community members and activists came together Saturday morning at P.S. 329 on West 30th Street to form a sense of community and educate the public about anti-violence involvement and progress.

The Step Up Project teamed up with their umbrella organization, The Coney Island Anti-Violence Collaborative and came together to eat, create fellowship and build positivity, said Mathylde Frontus, Coney Island community member and Executive Director of Urban Neighborhood Services (UNS).

Coney Island residents get together to talk about curbing violence in the neighborhood. Photo by Patricia Nieberg

According to Frontus, the history of Coney Island is bittersweet with warmth of the people in the community, but darkened by “the perpetual gun violence that [Coney Islanders] have lived in the shadow of.”

As a community, Frontus wants to work with the 50,000 households that make up Coney Island. With such a concentrated amount of people Frontus noted, “The gun violence has been disproportionate to the amount of people that live here.”

Acting on the ground, sharing stories of those affected by gun violence and being straightforward about the issues have been key to starting the conversation.

“People always say, ‘Wow I’ve never had someone quite say that. I’ve never been in a space where people were explicitly presenting it in this manner.’ ” Frontus said. “We’re trying to raise consciousness.”

The first hour consisted of a breakfast in the elementary school’s cafeteria and followed with speeches from board members, active community members and the ability for audience members to voice their ideas or concerns.

The program promoted spreading information about these organizations, having conversations at home and reaching out to the younger generations.

The Collaborative plans to begin academy classes directed at young boys and teenagers from 12-18.  She hopes to use past incidents as case studies with news clippings, videos and speakers to have open and honest discussions.

Assembly Member Pamela Harris

Harris, who grew up in Coney Island, also addressed the younger audience. As the first elected African-American from the district, Harris reminded them that similar to her, their roots in Coney Island are part of their future success.

“Out of everybody here, how many of you are ‘gonna’ make it?” she asked.

The youngsters chanted “me,” adding to the community morale in the room.

Coordinator for the Step up Project, Ronald Stewart, also referred to as “Brother Ron” within the community, said that the project’s influence has had a good impact with a significant decrease in gun-violence events for the last nine months.

“Violence is happening while we are speaking,” said Brother Ron. “This is our home. You have to be involved.”

The entirety of the event ended with a message for the members of the 11224 zip code community to start being more active in their daily lives.

“[These events] happen in our own backyard and that carries a level of shame,” said Frontus. “Please don’t sit back.”

In addition to this event, The Coney Island Anti-Violence Collaborative has monthly meetings at Liberation High School and anti-violence learning academy classes.

For more updates on upcoming events, check out: https://www.facebook.com/CIAVC/.

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