Ten months after my 10 years, two months and seven days in prison, I was hired part-time to do some noble works. I got a gig as a violence interrupter for this local organization called Save Our Streets that was five minutes walking distance from my building in St. Mars.
My job was simple; interrupt violence, particularly gun violence before it happened. I was going to be a ghetto super hero, while on parole. It was time for my first day and I was excited.
But, my first day ended up with this journal entry:
So, on my first 1st official night of work as a VI [violence interrupter], I was given a summons by the police for walking in the park after dusk.
They wrote me up, BUT let a white lady go. Officer Lorens (a Latino) and a Carl Winslow look-alike gave me the ticket.
But, that wasn’t it. While Carl Winslow was in the car checking my name in the system (having an officer run your name through the system while being out of prison for only 10 months and on parole gave me the bubble gut), Officer Lorens was giving the speech about how its hard being a Latino cop and how his childhood friends look at him differently when he goes around his old Bushwick neighborhood.
He was telling me that he had orders from his bosses that they had to stop and ticket anybody walking through the park after dark because there was a recent shooting in the park.
“Officer, my job is to stop the shootings. I am going to work now. Just call the office.”
Brushing me off as if I was kid trying to make up a lie to get out of some sort of trouble by a parent, he said, “it’s out of my hands.”
But, that wasn’t it. While Carl Winslow is running my name through the computer system in the police car, a white blonde walks with her little dog about 15 feet away from where I am being held over by these cops. Officer Loren’s hollers over to Blondie, “don’t come in here, the park is closed after dark.”
“Ok, thanks officer,” Blondie replies as she turns around with her dog and begins to walk away from us and begins her exit out of the park which is about 100 feet away!
But, what was I to say? I was in the middle of a park after dark, on parole for serving over a decade in prison—only 10 months out. If I wasn’t walking with all of that baggage of disenfranchisement I probably would have questioned the officer about following his orders to stop everyone coming through the park after dark that night.
But, I was too traumatized by those years up north to risk anything that would give those pod-lice officers a reason to put silver steel bracelets on my wrists again. I was too traumatized to have to explain this situation to my parole officer. So, I took my summons and continued on to my job to stop gun violence.
Kids outside of Brower Park in Crown Heights
But, this is the problem of gentrification… It only adds to the list of traumatization that is as American as apple pie for inner city black and brown folk.
Social disorganization and more and more means to move us to the depths of marginalization whether intentional or unintentional will continue display its ugly face as gun violence, and all of the “thuggery” that is inappropriately synonymous with inner city youth.
Whether it is “dem white people moving in to our buildings” or cops stopping us on corners (or in front of my building, in my case), the trauma is where the real problem lays.
Some smart person somewhere once said, “hurt people, hurt people.”
Well, let me add my two cents to that: Traumatized people, traumatize people.