Telling It Like It Is
Saturday’s disgusting weather afforded residents the opportunity to stay home and catch up on house chores. The rain and gloominess didn’t disappoint me as much as the story I wanted to cover that afternoon.
The public was recently invited to a Gang Awareness Forum that was held Saturday afternoon at Holy Family School. Hundreds of fliers were distributed by the parish, as well as Father Edward Kane at the last 69th Precinct Community Council meeting. The event was hosted by the Department of Education’s Gang Prevention Unit and Brooklyn Catholic Charities. Plenty of residents over the years have asked for a presentation to be given by an official agency that would help parents identify if their children are involved in gangs. With increased gang activity among the community’s youths, a forum like this is necessary to bring to Canarsie and surrounding areas.
I haven’t covered weekend events in a long time, but I was actually eager to know what the sponsors of this event were going to present to some of the potentially uneducated parents. I’m sure the discussion focused on what signs to look for, what behavior to pay attention to and what patterns children involved in gangs exhibit.
I wouldn’t know what the discussion was about – because I was told this forum was NOT for the media to know about. I was basically uninvited and kicked out of the event. Even though I’m somewhat well known in the community, no one recognized me when I arrived at Holy Family School Saturday at 3 p.m. For the first time in MONTHS I had to tell the sponsors at the entrance that I was from our community newspaper. They had no idea what to tell me about the event in general – only that children were put in the auditorium and parents were put in the cafeteria for separate presentations.
I then spoke to a gentleman from Catholic Charities who couldn’t verify anything either. The sponsors seemed flustered and didn’t know what to tell me – as if this forum was some secret event that shouldn’t have been announced so widely to our community. I even heard them repeat to each other that the forum was announced at a community meeting. However, it seemed the public was incorrectly notified and this was ONLY an event for Holy Family parishoners.
I was told that information from the Gang Awareness Forum wasn’t allowed to be published in the newspaper, even though we already announced it in the “Events” section in our Community Guide last week (and that’s the extent of the information you’ll read on the forum.)
“It’s just for parents and children. We don’t want press here,” was what one of the women told me, as relayed to them by the Department of Education representative who was there to speak to parents.
I blatantly asked them, “So, let me get this straight – you’ve got kids in Canarsie joining gangs….you announce this event to the WHOLE community at meetings, but you don’t want to share it with the public?”
I suddenly felt like the DOE was being counterproductive in their efforts to educate parents. The only person who also seemed surprised was Holy Family’s Rev. Father Amann. I tried to persuade him that the Canarsie Courier wants to demonstrate that things are happening in the community for the betterment of the youth. Father Amann was sympathetic, but confirmed that this wasn’t something for the newspaper to publish, as per the sponsors’ request.
Is the DOE off their rocker? Our job, as a newspaper is to get the word out to those who can’t attend civic meetings and other events. Think about it – when you turn down the media, you subsequently keep the public in the dark, too.
Our readers, who rely on newspapers for critical local information, are the ones who lose out. The DOE basically denied the community information. Sure, I could have taken it personally that they didn’t want me there, but in the long run, the DOE’s message to me was: “We don’t want the public to really know about gangs.”
For some odd reason, no one even offered to send me a press release or write-up after the event. The DOE speaker, who wouldn’t say two words to me the whole 20 minutes I was there, should have given me his information to follow up.
I also don’t understand why the NYPD didn’t sponsor this event – Gang Task Force units have spent years making gang-related arrests and they know where kids are hanging out AFTER school hours and they study patterns of gang activity. The NYPD would have also been much more accommodating to me.
Maybe I shouldn’t get too worked up over a simple event that I was turned away from. After all, it afforded me the opportunity to do all my house chores. Thanks DOE, thanks a lot…