Neighbors Still Silent; Ministers Call For Action

IMG_0710.jpgAs ministers came to Newhallville to demand an end to violence, opinions remained mixed about a larger question hanging in the air: What to do about the kids who beat up a van driver in last week’s dirt bike crash?

In the wake of a weekend shooting that threw Gospel Fest into chaos, Minister Donald Morris brought the Brotherhood Leadership Summit to the corner of Huntington and Shepard Streets Wednesday evening for a curbside sermon and stop the violence rally.

The rally came three days after shots rang out at Goffe Street Park, where Morris and the Christian Community Commission were holding the 12th annual Gospel Fest. A 14-year-old was grazed by a bullet. One Newhallville kid, age 19, was chased down and arrested for gun possession.

“I’m angry,” said Morris. He said this was the first episode of gun violence at the event after 11 peaceful years. “Why would you have to bring a gun to Gospel Fest?”

The streets were “quiet as a mouse,” Morris acknowledged, as he took the mic on the corner Wednesday. He called for three results: First, that the kid who did the Gospel Fest shooting be “made an example of,” so that other kids don’t try to follow his lead. Second: That police start patrolling the streets with lights blazing, from 9 p.m. to 6 a.m., when kids are out making trouble. Third: That pastors in Newhallville and Dixwell break from passivity and start reaching out to mentor kids.

IMG_0706.jpgCalling violence “out of control,” Morris referred to a harrowing incident still haunting the neighborhood: A July 24 dirt bike-van collision that led to a crowd beating a driver and the death of the dirt bike rider, 15 year-old Quinell/Cornell Payne (at right in photo of a friend’s t-shirt).

“The man in the hospital beat half to death. For what?” Morris cried, down largely empty streets. “Where in the world is our black leadership?” he added, referring in part to the area’s alderman, who later showed up.

At the time of the crash, witnesses told media outlets that 12 kids jumped the van driver when they saw their friend, whom they call Cornell, lying in the street.

Not much was said officially about the neighborhood’s continual reluctance to turn in the 12 kids who beat up the driver. The victim was a middle-aged man from the neighborhood. Like the boy, he was African-American. Dozens of people saw the beating but police say the investigation has been stymied by a “no snitch” mentality that makes black-on-black crime difficult to solve.

An Unsolved Question

Why isn’t the neighborhood speaking up about the beating? Those interviewed at the rally had different takes on that question.

IMG_0719.jpg Andre Barnes (pictured), a 50-year-old Newhallville man listening in to the preachers’ message from outside a convenience store, had several answers of his own. He said even though he knows the driver from the neighborhood — “a pretty good guy” — he could also empathize with the kids who did the beating.

“My own son was shot,” he said: Andre Barnes, Jr. was fatally shot on Dewitt Street in 1995.

“I know the rage,” he said. “If I ran and saw a friend of mine, with his eyes popping out of his head like that …” he trailed off.

“They was wrong” to beat the driver, Barnes said. But “people have different reactions. Those kids went into shock.”

Barnes also cited neighborhood rumors about the driver’s behavior in explaining why people might not want to turn the kids in for the beating.

“You see, no one is coming forward because of how fast the guy was going,” he said. Police have sternly refuted rumors that the driver was drunk or traveling too fast, maintaining that the driver was not at fault.

IMG_0730.jpg Alderman Charles Blango (pictured), who walked up to the corner mid-way through the rally, was invited onstage to speak. He gave two messages. Onstage, he commended the preachers for reaching out to the kids and demanding an end to the violence:

“It’s time to get angry and it’s time to get upset about our young men that is being shot down,” Blango said.

Offstage, he returned to his earlier message that this is “still a time for healing” for those grieving for both victims. Asked why no one has come forward to report the beating, Blango replied: “First of all, whatever happened to the van driver ain’t right.”

But “people are afraid” to come forward and report someone in their own neighborhood — “afraid of what happens when you accuse the wrong person; afraid [whether] you’d be protected” from those you accuse.

Pressed on the code of silence, he eventually said: “If they know who done it, they should come forward.”

Apostle Eugene Brunson of Wayfaring Ministries, one of the Brotherhood Leadership Summit, said “I didn’t think about” the kids who beat the van driver in his sermon for the day. He said he was more focused on what had happened at Gospel Fest.

IMG_0704.jpg Quan Payne, Cornell’s brother (at right in photo), stood outside the convenience store with his friend Al Mitchell (at left) as pastors’ voices echoed through cranked-up speakers on the street.

Quan agreed with the pastors that violence in Newhallville is “out of control.” He said he didn’t know who beat up the van driver. “I wasn’t looking at him,” Quan said in a soft voice, his eyes red with tears. “I was looking at my brother.”

Darrin Winfrey, 19, rolled up on his bike wearing an “RIP Cornell” pin stuck on an orange shirt. He said he came on the scene late and didn’t witness the incident when his friend died.

“It’s crazy,” though, he said of the beating. “He fifty-some years old. How do you do that?”

“I know people know what happened,” Winfrey said. He said he was not sure why no one would speak up, but he said they won’t tell him the details, either.

Gospel Fest Shooting: A “Petty” Beef

Winfrey missed the Gospel Fest shooting, which he found “crazy” too. “It’s like you go to a church and shoot up the Lord’s house.”

Morris and Brunson shed a bit of light on what they said happened that day. Brunson said he was at the festival Sunday evening when about 35 kids from the Newhallville area showed up, all dressed in black shirts.

Morris estimated there were 50 of them. The kids weren’t there for the music. They “came from this neighborhood looking for trouble,” he said. They came because they heard a kid from the Dwight/Kensington area had disrespected Cornell, Morris said. He said it was a “petty” beef, of he-said-she-said.

Both pastors were outraged at the apparent audacity of the shooter, who is said to have fired bullets while standing 25 yards away from a police officer.

Morris called for harsh punishment for the kid who fired the shots.

Barnes, the onlooker, was skeptical: “Locking them up ain’t gonna help,” he commented as the pastor spoke.

He said he served 11 years in the slammer for drug and assault charges.

“When I got in the prison system, it didn’t help me, it made me worse,” he said. “The thing is, when you come out, you do the same old thing again.”

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posted by: fairhavendoc on August 7, 2008  8:43am

am i looking too hard, or does the picture of cornell on the t-shirt show him giving the middle finger?  nice.

posted by: Anonyme on August 7, 2008  8:56am

Someday I hope to be remembered on a T-shirt. And when that day comes the photo used better include me and my friends flipping the “bird.”

I want to see DeStefano in one of those shirts standing under an “All-American City” banner.

I always expected some idiocy during the Freddy Fixer parade so when there were instances of it I was never surprised. I always thought Gospel Fest would have been a fun event for idiocy mostly due to the irony of a shoot-out at a churchy event and have frankly been very surprised in the uneventful years past. Maybe the kid who fired the shot thought the 14 year-old was a Muslim trying to invade his holy land off Goffe?

Anybody ever go to these churches at the bottom of the street? I have multiple time to see what it’s all about. To see how a group of people so seemingly pious to be in attendance week after week for 4 hours at a time often multiple times per week could have children running around robbing, assaulting, self-medicating and panhandling. Well, it would seem at least to a portion of theses churches congregations that god, jesus, jebus, whatever, serves as an excuse not to take care of themselves.  Constantly asking some higher power to fix their lives rather than just fixing it themselves. Without posting names or photographs more than one of the most celebratory “dancers” (I’m sure there is some other word to describe what it is they do stomping up and down the aisles throwing clothing this way and that and shouting slogans from the tops of their lungs to the ever-escalating volume of organ smashing) asking me for change on a Friday night or face down next to a mailbox in front of the busiest package in New Haven on Whalley Ave.

Keep looking for some great black “leader” to fix it, keep asking some higher power to make it all better but don’t just go and start behaving yourselves and holding your children and neighbors up to a higher standard. Wouldn’t want that. Wait for god to make it all better.

posted by: 2FACE on August 7, 2008  10:40am

It doesn’t surprise me that Morris would be out on his soap box; trying to reach out the people in the community.  Unfortunately,the sermons are not effective.  The GOSPELFEST is the perfect example of that…the shooting took place and everyone scattered…afterwards…Morris returned to the stage to ask people to come back and give an offering…you missed the moment…get over it!  We are tired of the HUSTLE…who is part of the hustle?  The Black Clergy in New Haven…They have a vested interest in grand standing and bowing to Johnny.  As long as they do so funding for events and personal gain will continue.  Its no wonder our youth don’t trust the adults.  I am not surprised to see two members of the poli-pimps take a picture together.  OUR communities are going to hell in a hand basket and the poli-pimps are taking turns driving bus…can anyone indentify them by name…B**** Kimber…if you know the names of the others add them to the list by name:______________________________
(lets see how many we come up with)

posted by: Esbe on August 7, 2008  11:01am

Anonyme—trashing other peoples’ religious practice doesn’t help.

The Rev. Morris is from that same religious tradition and he has the guts to stand in the street in broad daylight and call out the criminals and their passive enablers.  Let’s hope for more of this.

posted by: Alex on August 7, 2008  3:37pm

Rev Morris had a series of men’s breakfasts about a year ago with around a hundred black men from the area attending. They talked about taking action and were all worked up and it seemed like everybody was going to swing into action and “stop the violence.” Yet I see little or no evidence of any real action on the part of most of the people at those breakfasts. Most youth programs are shallow, don’t have any serious funding and few of these men are REALLY standing up and making a difference. Lots of talk, no action! Author Steve Perry gave a “Man Up” lecture at Stetson Library telling black men to stand up and take action and get their neighborhoods in order. People promised to come outside of Stetson every Tuesday evening to help with the local youth. I think one person turned up the first Tuesday then nothing.

How many “stop the violence” marches and “black man stand up” lectures/breakfasts must we have to get real results in our community? Seems like the only call for action and promises of action come after the bullets are fired. Last Sunday they shut down Stevens St because someone came down there shooting. This didn’t make the news for some reason. The fact is that more and more kids are carrying guns, lots of bullets are flying and it won’t be long till there’s another Jajuana Cole or Justus Suggs murder and once again the pastors will march and call for action. Also when asked about getting the guns off the street all you get from City Hall and the police are blank stares and mumbled statements. Look - wake up - nothing is going on that really helps solve these problems and few have the guts to really stand up!

posted by: FIX THE SCHOOLS on August 7, 2008  5:43pm

Yelling on a street corner won’t have as much impact as yelling at a BOE meeting or in front of City Hall.  Get parents, brothers, sisters, grandparents and march on City Hall, the Board of Ed. and the Board of aldermen. 

Don’t just pray and preach.  Bring concrete solutions with you. Become organized. Demand change.

posted by: Trinob on August 7, 2008  7:25pm

The shirt says it all. Even in memoriam they just don’t get it.

posted by: write&wrong on August 7, 2008  9:03pm

Minister Morris,

Keep up the fight.
Keep the faith.
Your reward is not here.
You have never been about the political…keep it that way.
I am with (you still) in spirit, W&W

posted by: Chris Gray on August 8, 2008  1:30am

He doesn’t address the community silence but Alex has some good points. 

Youth programs are shallow and under funded, community leaders are not meeting their commitments, and guns are rampant with no serious effort being made to strangle their influx, no less remove them from our community.

That last one really bothers me.  It helps explain the silence.

posted by: dede on August 8, 2008  8:30am

remember years ago BILL COSBY aaid to the black community..stop blaming others…you want change start changing…blacks don’t want to be educated..they like to play the system…he said education is the gate that opens your freedom off the streets…..and then they called him an UNCLE SAM…who kisses up to the white man…..BLACK COMMUNITY WAKE UP NOW

posted by: disbelief on August 8, 2008  8:36am

this neighborhood is being allowed to hold the city hostage. i drive on goffe and did on that day. that bullet could have grazed me. you write that the shooting at the festival was linked to the incident with cornell and the van.

police, under city hall, are taking a passive stand, claiming they have no strategy or tactics for getting at the truth of the van incident and making arrests unless someone comes forward.

They should pull out all the stops to get to the bottom of this thing and make arrests. PROPER arrests supported by sure evidence.

Newhallville residents’ rationalizatins mean newhallville refuses to be safer and insists on putting all our lives at risk instead, because as the one fellow in the story says, jail doesn’t help anything.

City Hall is no prince in this thing either - it turns a blind eye and destefano is hamstrung by his wierd disingenuous relationship with the black community.

if you have to, offer the witesses protection that have half a conscience and are only holding back out of fear, but end Newhallville’s status as a safe zone for active felons.

posted by: Where Are They Now? on August 8, 2008  9:30am

I left new haven in 1999. Does anyhow here know any of these people.

-Rodney Snapes (he has twin brothers)
-Richard L Mason (lil’ sister named Katie, and a brother named Mathew)

I pray for New Haven. It’s a distant home for me.

.(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)

posted by: king james v on August 8, 2008  5:53pm

By nature I"m suspicious of preachers who leave their church to take on bigger audiences.  I’m a skeptic at heart and unfortunately I tend to think they are looking for a bigger audience to satisfy their own ambitions.  I have now however seen somewhat of a light in Misister Morris’ words.  In this instance he’s put the onus on the very community I’ve always thought he’s been trying to woo.  I like his challenge to the so called leadership in the very communities that have been decimated by violence within, and i agree the politicians in these wards are lousy with charlatans and false prophets leading the good citizens towards ruin.
Black on black violence, and violence withing the Newhall, or Hill or Valley street nieghborhoods effect the entire City - from St. ronan st to Eastern St. to Morris Cove to Trowbridge Sq., it is OUR problem.  However, we can’t expect the people of Wooster square to solve the issues of the people of Kimberly square, nor can we expect the good folks of ceder hill decididing what’s right for the annex.  These issues need to be delt with “in house”.
The solution to the years of violence will not come from city hall, Washington or Jerusalem, but from within the community.  I look forward to higher expectations from the black community, and hope the white community will appreciate the effort.

posted by: Socio on August 8, 2008  7:21pm

I’m glad we have a full crowd of sociologists here to study this interesting problem that the poor black folk seem to be facing.

I don’t know why these savages just can’t get it right!

Why, I do declare, I think I shall have a lovely mint julep now, and then go re-read my favorite passages of “The White Man’s Burden.” What a thrilling work, to better the poor savages amongst us! Though they do not appreciate it, no sir, they do not, we must work hard to teach them to be more like us.

No no no sir, I am not suggesting any of you all are racist! Nothing could be farther from the truth: I’m sure all of you, like myself, have MANY black friends, and you delight in telling them that you are going to support Barak Obama, even though, frankly, white women have had it far worse than black men, historically speaking.

posted by: Alex on August 8, 2008  11:30pm

Note the article in the Independent today 8/8 about how the police are using unmarked cars and putting more effort into stopping people from using cell phones while driving. Hey how about using that energy and those resources FIRST to get the guns off the streets and out of teenagers hands before stopping cell phone toting drivers! I think the new chief has his priorities in the wrong place! How many guns did they get off the streets today?!

posted by: ROBN on August 9, 2008  10:16am


“WHITE MANS BURDEN”???? are you kidding me man. NHI readers don’t want to colonize and exploit Newhalville, they just want their fellow citizens in Newhalville to meet their responsibilities and fess up with the names of the kids who beat up the van driver.

posted by: Edward_H on August 10, 2008  11:10am

I really feel sorry for the decent hardworking people who live in Newhallville and cannot afford to move to better neighborhoods

I wonder if Gospel Fest will go the way of the Freddie Fixer?

posted by: Lamont Moye on August 14, 2008  5:48pm

As the gospel goes hip-hop the younger generation is attracted to the music.  We must understand that the gospel fest in New Haven is not exempt from gun violence.  We are grateful that many outside churchgoers have not yet been shot.  What saddens me is that the church is still singing “we shall overcome.”  If we’re serious about addressing the gun violence and crime in our city, we should refrain from the political and publicity stunts of marches and rallies when it’s convenient for us.  My feet hurt!  I don’t plan on marching anymore.  Once we become organized, self-determined, and no longer have to depend on the “MAN” for assistants, we then can make demands without compromise.  Jesus Christ died so that we may have eternal life, Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. marched so that we don’t have to march.  There will be no boycott of Connecticut Transit by blacks regarding sitting at the back of the bus, thanks to Honorable Rosa Parks and others.  New Haven Police Department needs the help of the community.  They can not do it alone.  Community activist groups such as Brotherhood Summit, People Against Injustice and others, needs to come together to assist one another.  While objectives and strategies may differ, they can help one another by way of resources and moral support. 

Until then, we might consider investing in a bulletproof vest while attending the gospel fest in New Haven.