Harlem Mothers Save

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Jackie Rowe-Adams, is a New York City Parks Department recreation manager at Morningside and Jackie Robinson Parks.  

 

Ms. Rowe-Adams has lost two children to gun violence.  In February of 1982, her 17-year-old son Anthony was murdered outside a bodega at 123rd Street in Harlem, by two young men who believed that Anthony had been staring at them.  Then, her son Tyrone, age 28 at the time, was shot to death by a thirteen-year-old during a robbery outside his apartment in Baltimore, Maryland.  

 

Speaking of her two losses, Ms. Rowe-Adams observed, “Either I was going to hate teenagers, or I was going to do something.”  She decided to do something, and along with Jean Corbett-Parker, founded Harlem Mothers S.A.V.E.

 

“If I can save another mother’s child, my life was not a waste,” she concluded.

No mother should have to bury her own child. The pain of losing a son or daughter is even more acute, however, when their death occurs through something as unnecessary as gun violence. With this bitter realization in mind, two Harlem women came together in 2006 to form Harlem Mothers Stop Another Violent End, or Harlem Mothers S.A.V.E.

Jackie Rowe-Adams, know what they are talking about, as each has lost one or more of their children to gun violence.  Their goal for Harlem Mothers S.A.V.E. is to prevent another parent from experiencing the suffering they’ve endured.

 

History of the Problem

 Violent crimes threaten our communities and rob our society of promising young people and decent citizens at alarming numbers each year.  According to recent reports:

·         Everyday, 85 people die from gun violence, 35 of them murdered. (Bradly Campaign, 2009)

·         In 2006 the U.S firearm homicide rate was 6 times that of Canada, 13 times that of Germany, 15 times that of Austria, 26 times that of Australia and Spain and 31 times that of England and Wales. (Brady Campaign 2009)

·         While New York State’s crime rate has decreased over the past 10 years, New York has also reported a significant reduction in the actual number of crimes reported. (DCJS 2008 Final Data)

·         In 2008 there were 5,320 reported violent crime incidents which involved a firearm, an increase of 2% over 2007 and 29% over 1999. (DCJS 2008 Final Data)

·         Homicides occurred at higher rates among males and persons 20-24 years; rates were highest among non-Hispanic black males. (CDC)

·         The number of black children and teens killed by gunfire since 1979 is more than 10 times the number of black citizens of all ages lynched in American history. (CDF)

“If you see something, say something!  It’s not snitching, it’s saving a life!”

 

In 2007, 41 people were killed in the three police precincts that cover Harlem. This 2006 statistic is more than double the 19  killed there in 2005. In an attempt to turn this dire situation around, Harlem Mothers S.A.V.E. focuses on three main areas:  activism, victim services and education. They have compiled a list of stores, bodegas, and nail and hair salons in Harlem which they suspect of trafficking in the illegal sales of guns. 

 

“One of our goals at Harlem Mothers S.A.V.E. is to let families know about where and how these guns are getting to our children,” said Ms. Rowe-Adams.  “Many parents are still surprised about where kids can get them, but bodegas, certain housing projects and city parks have all been identified as locations where gun sales take place.”

 

They believe deterrence can come through legislation. So, with the cooperation of New York State Assemblyman Keith Wright (70th A.D. – Harlem), Harlem Mothers S.A.V.E. is supporting the sponsorship of tough new laws that would severely punish those who sell guns illegally out of licensed businesses, or allow others to do so within their business. This proposed legislation would provide a lifetime ban on all state and city licenses for those who allow such activities to take place.

 

“Many times, owners will plead ignorance, claiming they have no knowledge of illegal activity. Because this new legislation would allow for the possibility of permanent license revocation, it would compel gun shop owners to make sure such activities do not take place in their place of business,” Assemblyman Wright said.

 

“For more years than I can remember, Harlem has been a prime locale for gun dealers to set up shop. This puts our children at a supreme disadvantage when it comes to avoiding gun violence and avoiding guns in general,” he elaborated. “We are going to change this situation with community involvement, thanks to the Harlem Mothers S.A.V.E.”

 

Education is central to the organization’s efforts. The mothers hope to disavow children from their mistaken thinking that guns can be used to intimidate or settle an argument. Working alongside members of the New York Police Department, the mothers are organizing educational forums at Harlem’s junior and senior high schools – all with the goal of convince young people that guns are not “cool.” 

 

Members of Harlem Mothers SAVE have already convened several well-attended town meetings in Harlem, to get their anti-gun message out to a wider audience. It is simply by sharing their own stories, though, that these women offer the most powerful message of all.

 

“My first son got killed because he looked at someone. That’s what happens in this world,” said Ms. Rowe-Adams. “I didn’t laugh or smile for a year.”

 

It is the hope and prayer of Harlem Mothers S.A.V.E. that their efforts will prevent another parent from having to endure such a terrible loss.