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Brother Born Puts The Governor On The Spot
by Melissa Bailey | Aug 19, 2013 1:52 pm
Posted to: Legal Writes, Newhallville
As Gov. Dannel P. Malloy made the final lap of a walking tour through Newhallville designed to promote a gang-fighting initiative, a man in a wheelchair interrupted his path—and offered his own approach to solving crime.
Malloy “walked the beat” with police through Newhallville Monday morning, making the eighth stop on a “tour” of urban crime. The tour aimed to highlight Malloy’s commitment to Project Longevity, an anti-gang initiative that started in New Haven and is soon spreading to Bridgeport and Hartford. The tour also aimed to illustrate a point: That Malloy cares not just about mass shootings like Newtown, but about the everyday gun violence that plagues communities like Newhallville.
Malloy’s tour began at 10 a.m. at Winchester Avenue and Read Street, where the feds swept the streets of alleged members of the R2 gang. The neighborhood has been hit hard by slumlords and foreclosure; neighbors have been working to revive it. Trailed by a black Ford Taurus with tinted windows, Malloy walked the streets with a large group including Mayor John DeStefano, Assistant Police Chief Luiz Casanova, top Newhallville cop Lt. Kenneth Blanchard, several patrol officers, and Malloy’s top point-person on criminal justice, Mike Lawlor. The tour passed relatively uneventfully; neighbors called out greetings and a child asked for his autograph.
Then Malloy met “Brother Born.” The governor was just hitting home stretch of the tour, behind Lincoln/Bassett School, when Brother Born swung his wheelchair into his path holding a video camera. Brother Born said he had a question for the governor.
Born told the governor he’s tired of hearing gunshots every day from the city’s outdoor firing range on Sherman Parkway.
“I just want to know, do y’all know of any other city in the United States that has an outdoor gun range in the middle of an urban neighborhood with more than three schools surrounding it?” Born asked.
“That’s why I’m here,” Malloy cut in.
DeStefano gave a more detailed answer: The city has bought the former Army reserve center on Wintergreen Avenue and plans to move the firing range into the basement of the reserve center after another year.
The politicians walked toward the school, where a group of TV reporters intercepted the governor for a quick news conference.
Born, who’s 36, told reporters someone in shot him eight years ago in New Haven. Now he focuses his efforts on organizing “positive” activities in his neighborhood.
Born followed down the sidewalk—then pulled an abrupt U-turn. He hollored to a friend, who was doing a daily workout on the Lincoln-Bassett pull-up bars. He urged him to run and make a copy of a flyer for a block party on Read Street.
Inside Lincoln/Bassett, Malloy held an hour-long discussion with community leaders and elected officials about public safety. Malloy touted Project Longevity, where state and local officials “call in” gang members and warn them that if any one member shoots someone, law enforcement will crack down on the whole gang. “If you’re going to war with anybody, we’re going to war with you,” said Malloy, a former prosecutor.
During a question and answer period, Born quietly wove his way to the front of the room. Then he held up a green flyer for the TV camera to see. He caught the governor’s eye.
So Malloy swung into action. He picked up the flyer and read the announcement aloud: Read Street is throwing an annual block party on Sunday, Aug. 25 from 1 p.m. to 7 p.m. (The flyer said 1 a.m., Malloy noted: If Brother Born is keeping kids up at 1 a.m., “we’re going to come after you,” he joked.) The Read Street kids need monetary donations, Malloy dutifully added.
The meeting broke up at 11:30 a.m. after a range of comments, several of which called for more funding for the Street Outreach Workers program.
Born swung his wheelchair around to face the crowd of over 100 people gathered in the school cafeteria.
“Don’t leave!” he urged. He said the problem is politicians always leave instead of staying to help improve the neighborhood. He put out another call for donations from the crowd. He noted he saw many people dressed in suits, which means they can afford to spare a couple of dollars.
The plea worked: Police Chief Dean Esserman gave him ten bucks. Lawlor gave him a twenty. Born, who’s making a documentary, captured the donations on video.
Then he offered his own take on how to solve crime in the neighborhood.
Sweeping up gang members, as the feds did in Operation Bloodline, doesn’t work, he argued: As soon as you remove some R2 members, new ones pop up.
He also said he doesn’t think the threats associated with Project Longevity will work.
He said he and some friends have started working out on the jungle gym at Lincoln/Bassett five days a week, to set a positive example.
“That’s not how we get better,” he said—through positive neighborhood activities, “not by Operation Grab Every Gang Member.”
He also objected to the name “Project Longevity,” which he interpreted to indicate that the war against gangs would last a long time. “It should be ‘Operation Over,’ not ‘Operation Longevity,’” he said.
In remarks to reporters after the discussion, Malloy defended Project Longevity. He credited the program with helping to dramatically reduce shootings and homicides in the city. And he said it must be done alongside community policing, where neighbors are a key part of the solution, and work together with cops.
Just a block away, U.S. Sen. Chris Murphy (at center in photo) held a separate forum on crime Monday morning. He met with juvenile justice activists and faith leaders at the Newhallville Community Center at 681 Dixwell Ave.
His visit came on the heels of a key speech by U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder, in which the U.S. Department of Justice pledged to put an end to mandatory minimum sentences for non-violent drug offenders.
“Our judicial system and our sentencing laws are killing communities like New Haven” because too many people are locked up for too long, Murphy said.
Murphy said though Obama has endorsed sentencing reform, the changes still need new legislation from Congress. He said his visit Monday aimed to build community support around passing such laws. (Click here for Hugh McQuaid’s full report on the discussion.)
Capria Marks (pictured), 17, agreed with Murphy. She said she’s seen too many people go to jail for possession of drugs.
“Watching your friends leave you is so hard,” she said. She mentioned one friend who came out into a halfway house after serving time. “You see life sucked out of him when he go to jail,” she said.
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Silly story. Making Crime points in New Haven. Meantime, our police are now being shot at and crime and murder escalate weekly. I know we can all rest so much easier now knowing that the Governor is going to fix this problem. It is working so well in Hartford and Bridgeport too.
You think that MORE TESTING is going to KEEP KIDS IN SCHOOL?
You think that LOWERING TEACHER MORALE is going to KEEP KIDS IN SCHOOL?
You think that TFA is going to keep more kids in school?
You think that telling kids that they are FAILURES is going to keep more kids in school? (See NY releases scores…70% fail).
Malloy is a joke.
I’m glad to see that Governor Malloy came out and walked the beat with the police. That he met real residents of New Haven and didn’t back down. I don’t expect him to solve New Haven’s problems. I do expect him to care.
In fairness, no politician can save a City or anyone from himself. Rather, than can make available tools that can help toward that end. I do believe that is his goal: to make tools available for those who want to achieve. Everything is not politics and everything that is politics is not wrong.
I don’t doubt that the many commentators on this site are good intentioned and do many wonderful things within their communities. But that should be a source of personal pride and not an objective lens by which we monitor others trying to help or bringing attention to a problem.
New Haven is in dire need of a cultural evolution. We see a bunch of grew things happening, but they are tailored toward the well-to-do newcomers to the city rather than the folks who have made up the Elm City for generations.
Brother Born is correct. City officials should take a look in the mirror and ask if they are a part of the solution or the problem. Shooting guns outside of schools ranging from grades k-graduate school over the course of several decades sends the wrong message. Deal with what matters most to the people and Project Longevity will not be needed. Project Longevity just turns the school to prison pipeline into a conveyor belt.
Toni Harp will wave her magic wand and all of New Haven’s problems will be solved. There are no youth summer activities to keep young people occupied. When I was young, The PAL, area churches, were active groups that sponsored drum corps, color guards, and basketball programs. I see nothing today. We had no free time to get into trouble.
I want to thank NHI for telling the story of Malloy’s visit from a unique perspective. The sound bite these politicians wanted didn’t happen. instead we saw a home grown solution to building community. it is not putting more young black men in jail. Its putting more of them behind the grill at block party events and creating a real sense of community. These kids are looking for someone to stand up and care about them not put them in jail—gang or no gang.
After nearly deciding not to, I ultimately decided to get up, come off of my STAYcation, put on a suit, and join The Gov, The Mayor, the Police Chief, and “members of the New Haven Community for a roundtable discussion on violence…” A “discussion” to which I had been invited by Email.
My hesitation to attend this “discussion” was based on the sneaky suspicion that this would not be a discussion, and if it were, it woud not be a meaningful or substantive one. My suspicion proved to be more accurate than I desired.
The first, and most meaningful, thing that led me to draw the conclusion that this “discussion” would not really advance a movement to “end violence in New Haven” is the fact that the EXACT wrong people (yet again) were at the “roundtable”, which turned out to be some chairs placed in a circle (Oh well, so much for method acting).
When the “community” feels forced to have a “discussion” about the stoppage of violence with the police department, we have already admitted defeat. We have admitted that we cannot engage our CHILDREN before they become menace to society. We have admitted that we are incapable, as a community, of coming together and putting the neighbor back in the “hood” so that our children are protected from themselves and that our grown-folk are willing to take responsibility for ALL of the children in our respective neighborhoods and not just THEIR children.
MOST of what was said at this “discussion” was brought to one common conclusion. My version: It was the professional class of Black Folk saying to a government largely controlled by the professional class of White Folk: “Please give us money to run our ‘programs’ so that we can pretend to help the vulnerable children of the underclass, who are NOT in this room, and programs, by the way, to which we don’t, and probably never will, send OUR children.”
These “discussions” don’t yield any real results, because they are not discussions. They are political theater, at best.