A Community In Need Of Leadership – Our Youth Suffer

Julio Pabón & Dr. Mark Naison (middle) surrounded by members of the Rebel Diaz Collective prior to the rally in support of the group. (photo NYCLP)

Yesterday evening I attended an outdoor rally for the unfair and abusive eviction of the Rebel Diaz Arts Collective in my district here in the South Bronx on Austin Place near 149th Street. Upon arriving at 5PM, I was the second person there and within a short period more and more people, majority youth began to arrive.

I am running for City Council in this South Bronx district and as an underdog I am quite busy. My schedule was booked, however I had to attend. It was a no brainer, nothing else could be more important than to support a group of young individuals in the poorest Congressional District who had taken a dilapidated loft and had turned it into a haven for many youths in our community.

As a candidate and long time resident of the South Bronx I needed to support this cause. Since there are few after school programs most of our youth are hanging in the streets. Unfortunately, the streets of the South Bronx are sometimes more dangerous than the streets of places like Kandahar. Gun violence is a serious problem and the murals and make shift altars throughout our streets are real memories of the innocent youth who were killed and a reminder of what our youth have to deal with everyday.

Those who are not a victim to crime can easily be a victim of our own police as they are the new cash crop for a Criminal Justice Industrial Complex that survive on the number of arrest they make. Unfortunately, police rather arrest youth for smoking a blunt in a park than arrest the real criminals of our community. Stop and Frisk have produced very few illegal guns, which is the purpose of the program. However, it has produced a huge increase in petty arrest of our youth. Therefore, where are the youth of our community supposed to go and be safe?

When a group like the Rebel Diaz Collective can attract the youth of our community and keep them engaged in alternative arts programs and give them something to stay off the streets should we not be supporting them? My question is why are our youth left to fend for themselves and that is the reason I cancelled my meetings to attend this rally to support these brave young folks. I took no literature, nor did I try to manipulate myself to speak, as I did not go there to get votes, but to support and listen to what our youth had to say.

I am glad that I attended as I learned that our youth are angry and that they have been unjustly treated. I learned that they get very little, or no support from the present political leaders.  I also learned that our youth are resilient as they held their Friday night activity in the street, in the cold and were joined by a large crowd of supporters. They were not going to allow this negative experience to break up their good work and I can attest that they will get through this and grow stronger as I am a firm believer in my fathers preaching, “No hay mal que por bien no venga.”

These young folks reminded me of myself 30 years ago, except that there should be no reason for this in 2013. I am glad that I attended this rally.  I left as angry as the youths who were present and therefore, more committed to my campaign to get elected and represent this community that does not need a politician, but an activist organizer something that I have been for over 30 years.

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