To listen to Claudia Balthazar’s coverage of the event, click here.
In the name of peace, members of the Grass Roots Bikers’ Club rallied in the streets of Freeport on Saturday, Oct. 6 to discuss the need to end violence within the community. Co-organized by local organizations “Struggling to Reunite our New Generation” (S.T.R.O.N.G.)Youth Inc. and “There’s Only One Hempstead,” the protest’s participants initially stood together at the Perfecting Faith Church on Main Street.
As motorcyclists from surrounding neighborhoods (Hempstead, Freeport, Roosevelt and Garden City) drove past the parking lot, the back gates which were lined with poster boards covered with the names of young people from those communities that died because of violence. Names that were too many to count. Hung on a gate there was a jacket that read, “Violence is like a cancer. It is killing our young people. We are the cure.”
The event’s purpose was to bring together the “victimizers as well as the victims” and begin holding people accountable to pave the way for change and “instill pride in the community,” according to Brian Jones, founder of “There’s Only One Hempstead.”
The Peace Rally was initially organized by S.T.R.O.N.G Youth Inc. in response to Nassau County Executive Ed Mangano’s decision to cut funds for youth services. Services that have been the forefront for rescuing troubled teens who turn to gangs and violence when there are no other places to go. S.T.R.O.N.G, is one of the leading prevention and intervention agencies in the Northeast region that advocates to spread the message of non violence.
The most mentioned topic of the afternoon was the numerous deaths in the surrounding area due to gang violence. Many people were admittedly at the rally because they had either lost a loved one or attended to support a friend who lost someone to violence. With the group was Cathy Hooks, a mother who lost her son to a shooting. She and her youngest son Zac Hooks performed during the movement in memory of their lost one at the protest; Cathy a self-written poem entitled “Shades of Violence,” while Zac chose to rap about the late Mark Anthony Hooks.
In addition to ending the violence, one of the leaders of the protest Sergio Argueta (founder of S.T.R.O.N.G.), pointed out to government officials that he is “tired of seeing politicians elected and feeling like nothing will ever change no matter who is in office.”
These words were accompanied by a motivated speech from Minister Abdul Hafeez Muhammad of the “Nation of Islam.” Briefly before the group’s foray into the streets to end at the Executive and Legislative Building in Mineola, Hafeez Muhammad said, “So if the county doesn’t have money for us. Good! Then that means God wants us to do something for ourselves.”
– Claudia Balthazar, Jeanine Russaw