Many of the mothers and fathers in Harlem wore t-shirts Friday afternoon with the faces of their family members, all of whom were killed in gun violence.
New Yorkers who lost family members to gun violence held a memorial rally in Harlem to read the names of victims and to call to action the city to stop the flow of illegal handguns into communities that have led to a rash of shootings and death.
The rally was sponsored by Harlem Mother’s Stop Another Violent End (SAVE) led by co-founder Jackie Rowe-Adams, herself having lost a son to gun violence. They brought together local leaders, elected officials and police commanders, led by Chief of Community Affairs Jefferey Maddrey to honor those lost and to get out the message on gun violence.
The rally was highlighted by the discussion by State Senator Robert Jackson of pending legislation titled “the Gun Kingpin Bill of 2019,” in state legislature that would make possession of 20 or more guns punishable by up to 25 years in prison. It also stiffens penalties for gun traffickers, bringing guns to the city through the so-called, “iron pipeline” – up I95 from southern states where gun sales are lax.
Rowe-Adams gave Chief Maddrey a big hug when he arrived, having been a big supporter of her group’s efforts. She lost two sons to gun violence – both pictures on her t-shirt that she proudly displays on a purple backdrop.
“I’m here today with other mothers who had a loss because today is a day of remembrance – we have to remember our loved ones,” Rowe-Adams said. “We have to let people know that their dying is not going in vain. We have to let people know that we stand together, support each other – we must stop the violence and stop the guns coming up I95 – the gun trafficking is out of control. We are killing each other.”
Chaplain Robert Rice has been at the forefront of the anti-violence movement in Harlem and a chaplain for Harlem Hospital.. He said he has gone to “way too many hospitals” where young men and women have suffered gunshot wounds and had to tell family members that their loved ones were gone.
“Jackie Rowe-Adams is a spiritual mother of mine, I have a heart for the city and the community and as a community chaplain, I’ve been fighting against gun violence for years in Harlem,” said Rice who has ministered to more than 6o families who lost someone to gun violence. “Over 1,500 people so far have been shot this year in senseless shootings. We are losing our young people and they are heading for prison for killing or because they are dying because of gun violence. We have to get outside our four walls to help the police stop the senseless shootings.”
Monica Cassaberry lost her second-born Jamal Singleton 11-years ago, the second and last time he was shot in the street – the last time with a .40 caliber bullet to his back and ending his life.
“Stop killing – what are we doing to each other – if black lives matter, why does it only matter when it’s police brutality? why does it not matter when it’s us killing us?” Cassaberry asked. “There were three different videos of my son being murdered and nobody has been apprehended.”
James Edward Gary Sr. was in attendance to pay homage to his grandson, Sean Ezekiel Gary, 15, who was shot in the head in a car on Farmers Blvd in Queens 10 years ago by “people he thought was his friend.” He said that while police are close to a break in the case and he wants closure, but he also wants to get a non-violence message out.
“The message is you have to be careful about who you socialize with and watch where they go, because sometimes your friends are not your friends – it’s all about money,” Gary said. “This is what’s happening on the streets. It’s going on every day whether its Manhattan, Queens, Brooklyn, it’s all the same thing – they all want to be a big shot and they don’t care who they hurt or kill.”
Chief Maddrey, formerly a commander of Brooklyn North where violence has been very high, said “I don’t know where to start today.”
“We should be here to honor these families, these mothers, fathers, brothers, sisters who continue to push through and continue to be an example for us, despite the pain of the killing,” Maddrey said. “Despite what they went through some years ago, and as recent as a month ago, they continue to push forward and for that reason, we need to be here.”
Maddrey questioned why the violence was continuing and “we continue to lose our young brothers and sisters in the street.”
“That’s the reason we are here – we are here to help them to continue this fight so it is incumbent upon all of us – we should be bumping into each other to be here, the community should be supporting what we are doing – supporting saving our young people in the future. We shouldn’t have to do this – we should be out here celebrating life. Their children shouldn’t have been taken away from them. So Harlem – today is a call to action.”
State Senator Johnson emphasized the need to pass strong gun legislation. He said some people have been afraid to surrender guns at gun buyback programs and he said, “some people are afraid – just call me and I’ll come get it, get the money and bring it to you. The most important thing is to get guns off the streets.”
Borough president Gale Brewer saluted Harlem Mothers and said they work closely with the NYPD.
“It takes a lot of work and Jackie Rowe-Adams shows up everywhere because she cares,” Brewer said. “Nobody wants to be part of this organization as a parent or family member, but those who deserve tremendous respect, but also to understand what is the job of the NYPD – we have great respect for NYPD. We want to get rid of the officers who are no good, but we sure want to respect those who are here every single day and that is what we are looking for. To get the guns off the street, we need everybody.”