Residents of the Hamilton Hill neighborhood in Schenectady — the site of two fatal shootings within the past week — need to send a message that they won't tolerate the violence any more.
They need to send that message to city leaders. They need to send it to police. They need to send it to the city at large. And most of all, they need to send it to one another.
That's why it's important for members of the community to show up in force to this evening's peace rally, co-sponsored by the Hamilton Hill Neighborhood Association and the Southern Christian Leadership Conference (SCLC).
The rally will take place at 6 p.m. on the 500-block of Schenectady Street, near where 18-year-old Kusaan Tolliver was killed Monday night. It’s the same area where 22-year-old Joshua Olds was wounded in a shooting last Thursday.
There have been three other individuals killed by gunshots in the city so far this year. Tolliver was the fourth. Let’s hope he’s the last.
A large turnout by the community will reinforce the message — particularly to young people — that violence is not an acceptable way of life.
Marva Isaacs, president of the Hamilton Hill Neighborhood Association, said organizers want people to be more aware of their neighborhood and where they are living.
“Our kids are dying,” she said. “ We want to take back our streets.”
That’s why it’s important that the citizens of Hamilton Hill make this rally their own by showing up in droves.
Rally organizers also hope to send a message to city officials and police about the need for more patrols in the neighborhood and more action when officers see crowds gathering. She said the mayor and police chief are expected to be in attendance tonight.
No single rally by itself, no matter how well attended or sincere in motivation, can solve the problems.
But an event like this can be, and we hope will be, transformational as a means to promote further discussion and action.
Violence has many sources. It is most often rooted in poverty, homelessness, unemployment, a lack of positive role models, few community resources and few constructive activities to occupy young people.
So as a follow-up to this evening's rally, the SCLC hopes to coordinate other community forums to directly address these problems.
These discussions should not only include finding ways to get young people away from violence and address the root causes, but also address the issue of where people are getting the weapons used in the shootings and how to limit access and availability of them.
The seeds of progress have already been planted in the city.
In the wake of incidences of violence in other cities involving police and citizens, Schenectady community members have been helping forge a closer relationship with law enforcement.
Much more still needs to be done to address the root causes of violence in Hamilton Hill and elsewhere.
But a strong demonstration of support from the community for peace over violence is a good place to start. Those behind today’s rally should be commended for getting the effort going in the right direction.