BY TRONE DOWD
When 46-year-old Mamadou Diallo was shot and killed early Saturday morning at the Sunshine Deli on Merrick Boulevard, his life wasn’t the only thing taken from this community. Every person who falls victim to violence on the streets of Southeast Queens with little or no outcry for change from its residents is a loss for the very value of our neighborhoods.
Diallo was not affiliated with a gang or involved in the troubles of illegal neighborhood politics. He was a working class man like so many others in this part of Queens. Being taken from his family and friends over $66 is a tragedy that could have happened to any of the hundreds of thousands of people who call Southeast Queens home.
While organizations like Life Camp and its many affiliates have done a diligent job of making sure the world knows they won’t stand for this, it is very rare for a single group to accurately voice the outrage of the greater community.
Unfortunately, the people who best could convey that outrage were nowhere to be found immediately following the tragic shooting. As civic leader Kevin Livingston stated on Tuesday, it’s hard to believe that three days went by with no call to action following the tragic events that cut this man’s life short. When will our clergy and other civic groups have the clout to unite people for the greater good? Where was the outrage?
It is important that the people of sSoutheast Queens understand the price of letting violence like this slide.
During this time of transition for Southeast Queens as our leaders are preparing to make Jamaica one of the hottest locations across all five boroughs, we must keep an eye on the neighborhood’s current state. Are these changes people speak of meant to fix the issues faced by current residents? Or are residents being left to their own devices as their surroundings and neighbors change at their expense?
How does that begin to change? No better way than word of mouth. If you see a neighbor is bothered by the violence happening just blocks away from their front door, remind them that they do have a voice. By standing alongside just a handful of others, a statement is sent to the highest of offices. There’s a reason why Maspeth was able to make waves in the face of a proposed homeless shelter. They stood up 1000 strong for the changes they wanted to see.
It is also key to hold elected officials accountable. While our state senators, assembly members and council members may or may not understand the dire need to fix these longstanding community issues, we need to hold those who hold a higher office to their word. If improving the safety in the city is on their list of priorities, make sure our neighborhoods are not left off that list. Many people often forget how important the Southeast Queens voting bloc is to New York City elections. There’s a reason why Mayor de Blasio found time to hold not one, but two Town Halls in Southeast Queens over the last four months coincidentally just a year before he’s expected to be up for re-election. What better time to ensure change for the better then during the upcoming and likely contentious election season.
There are many factors that ultimately decide the fate of Southeast Queens. Get involved in the conversation as Southeast Queens moves forward. The Black community cannot afford to become desensitized to the violence that occurs on our city streets. The Black community can not allow themselves to be unheard. This is the time to get loud and rowdy the way other Queens neighborhoods have in the face of strife. Because letting the violence proliferate is drowning out the very serious needs of the people who are here and face these realities right now. If we continue to let violence slide, we’ll be pushing ourselves out faster than impending gentrification ever could.
Reach Trone Dowd at (728) 357-7400 x123, email@example.com or @ theloniusly