GovernmentPolice/FireThe Northern Westchester Examiner

Grants Announced to Combat Peekskill Gun Violence

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(L-R:) Peekskill Mayor Vivian McKenzie, Black Diamond members Nathaniel Martinez, Malik Culberson and Zamir Travis, New York State Senator Pete Harckham, and Pastor Gary L. Colter of Mount Lebanon Baptist Church.

For the City of Peekskill, the battle against crime and gun violence was just bolstered by significant funds received through grants totaling $100,000.

The grants were secured by New York State Senator Pete Harckham (D-Lewisboro) and are being awarded to Peekskill and Black Diamonds Academic Success, Inc., a nonprofit, Peekskill-based organization focusing on youth achievement. The announcement was made last Aug. 18 at a press conference at Peekskill City Hall.

“Some young people don’t have the ability to navigate conflicts and dispute resolution,” said Harckham. “These funds will support young people and give them those skills to work holistically in the community to prevent violence in the first place.”

Harckham was joined by Peekskill Mayor Vivian McKenzie, Peekskill City Manager Matthew Alexander, Black Diamonds Founder Martin McDonald and Black Diamond members Nathaniel Martinez, Malik Culberson and Zamir Travis. Also at the press conference were Peekskill Schools Superintendent Dr. David Mauricio, Peekskill Police Chief Leo Dylewski, Peekskill NAACP Vice President Kecia Palmer-Cousins, local clergy and the Peekskill Youth Bureau.

Peekskill was jolted in late July when two women were shot at several times and wounded while in their car near Tompkins Park. A second shooting took place a few days later. A suspect has been arrested for the first shooting.

“It is vital that we rectify the problem of gun violence in Peekskill and protect all of our residents,” said McKenzie. “We have been talking with community leaders and various partners to develop ideas in this regard, and we truly appreciate Senator Harckham’s strong support for our work.”

Three young men who were part of the Black Diamonds Academic Success said the announcement gave them hope. Martinez a former Peekskill High School student, said some of the main problems with troubled youth was their living situations.

“Many [youth] come from bad households where parents are violent with their kids,” Martinez said. “I’m confident the new programs will make a difference. It all comes down to setting an example. I’ve seen the violence. It’s scary, it’s crazy.”

Culberson, Vice President of the Black Diamonds, said the word “integrity” best described the collaborative effort being made by the city and the many organizations involved.

“Integrity empowers us all and we need it to fix everything that needs to be fixed,” he said.

Travis, a high school graduate who has been with Black Diamonds Academic Success for three years, stressed that it was important to listen to the youth in the community. “We have to make sure a lot of the things that are being discussed get done and that the youth participates and that they are being heard,” he said.

Funding will mostly support programs that work with young men ages 18-24 who might be prone to gun violence and to help them develop career objectives and provide mental health support.

“We will run an eight-week workshop for about 20 youth,” McDonald explained. “That program will be run by Antonio Hendrickson who works with the Department of Corrections in New York City.”

Hendrickson is known for running the community-based program, “Lead by Example, Reverse the Trend,” for 15 years. The program is geared towards preparing young people in disadvantaged communities for adulthood.

“But the first step is to listen to community members,” said McDonald, who invited anyone from the community to address crime or gun violence. “We hope to have more than one town hall [meeting] in the life of this grant.”

As part of its initiative, the organization will be hosting a Peekskill Alliance for Peace town hall event Aug. 23 at Peekskill Middle School to address gun violence (time to be announced) Among those partnering in the event are the City of Peekskill, Peekskill School District, NAACP and Peekskill Youth Bureau.

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