Many different Jersey City neighborhood leaders met today at Liberty State Park to announce that they want to work together, both among themselves and with police, to help troubled youth – calling a truce on violent crime for the foreseeable future.
In an interview, Dennis Febo, who works with those incarcerated in Hudson County, as well as juveniles in detention, said that it was important to have the different ward leaders meet to discuss how they can be a positive influence on the city’s youth population who live in some of the city’s lowest-income neighborhoods.
“Through our work, for the past couple of years, we’ve realized that we needed the older populations because the younger ones look up to them and respond to them…to have to come together to be able to call the peace,” he began.
“A lot of the violence in Jersey City is so far gone, a lot of the people don’t really even know what they’re fighting about anymore, it’s more like ideas, concepts that…, especially youth don’t really have true understanding in, so we figured if we helped create a larger identity around peace we could reduce the violence,” added Febo.
Another speaker, Sean Bruce, who served almost a decade in prison, spoke passionately about the meeting.
“This never happened in Jersey City, they said these Wards could not come together. They look at some of you like you are animals, but we’re not. Like I said, we’re going to voice ours. Only thing that we’re asking of you is to keep your word. Get some of these individuals jobs, help us with some of these kids, keep your word and we’re going to keep our word.”
Standing on the perimeter were officers and detectives from the Jersey City Police Department during the event, some of whom were eventually invited into to speak themselves.
Blacks in Law Enforcement Servicing Our Community Vice President John Boamah, also a member of the JCPD, told the crowd he and his organization are eager to work with the leaders to persuade the city’s youth to eschew gangs.
“This is our community. Every last one of you here are not animals: you’re not savages, you’re not killers, you’re not gangsters. You’ll are kings, queens, people, and we want you to understand that. I see scholars, I see engineers, I see businessmen. We don’t come from weak stock,” said Boamah.
“Every time a brother dies in the street, and I have to respond and I look at that body with no life in it, a little bit of me dies with that body.”
We followed up with him in an interview to ask him why it was important for police to bear witness at today’s unprecedented event.
“The only way this peace can sustain is if we all work together, so that’s why it’s important for law enforcement, first responders to be in the mix, to be in the crowd, and give that sense of unity because that’s what this was: a show and a feeling of unity, without that unity, a community is useless.”
The meeting among the different ward leaders took place in the backdrop of George Floyd’s death, a matter that has drawn protests nationwide: leading to arrests, destroyed property, and injured police officers.
“Everything that happened to George Floyd should not have happened. That was wrong, any law enforcement officer can tell you that it was just wrong,” Boamah explained.
“It was unfortunate that it happened, but our goal here is to make sure that this doesn’t happen here but I believe it won’t because our police department and our community have a pretty solid relationship. It’s not perfect, but it’s solid.”
“We just want to make sure that this initiative ensures that there are no other George Floyds anywhere else.”
Event organizer Nyquazah Hawkins said that only three neighborhoods out the entire city weren’t represented at today’s meeting of the minds.