Last week, a tragedy happened. You hardly heard about it in the news at the time. But I want to tell it here so none will forget it.
It was this: A precious Harlem community member died. She was only 13 years old and her name was Annie. She was killed. Annie loved school and she loved her friends. And her friends loved her too. She was going to school every day and coming home. Doing her homework and thinking about what she'd do on the weekend. Laughing at a joke, reading a book. What came between her and her everyday life, and the future she will never know but was surely dreaming of was this: A man with a gun.
Thanks to our rich partnership with The Children's Village we at LitWorld are blessed by the extraordinary and resilient children who live there and with whom we work. The Polo Grounds Towers house over 4,000 families in one of the poorest neighborhoods in New York: the four square blocks of the Polo Grounds have the highest juvenile arrest rate in the five boroughs, and 28 percent of the families fall below the federal poverty line. The children who live here are precious children and their lives are glowing with the potential of who they are and who they can become. But this will not be possible unless we stop isolating entire communities and join together to take action of support.
Here on the Huffington Post I shared the story of a mural project we created with CityArts that has brought much joy and conveyed the hope of the children who live in this area for their own bright futures. But this story is not a story of hope. This is instead a story of a young girl whose life was completely and unnecessarily ended. I am so sad and sorry this story has to be told. I wish there were no stories like this. Not here in New York, not anywhere in this country, not in this world.
Annie was shot and killed by her 28-year-old brother. Her mother was also shot and critically wounded by her son, who then engaged in a shoot-out with the police. If it was not so easy for her brother to get a gun, Annie would still be walking to school today. The children at the Polo Grounds would be greeting their friend Annie tomorrow morning.
Children everywhere face unimaginable challenges every day, but especially in poor, stressed communities where adults themselves are struggling to survive difficult lives. It is these communities where when a child is shot the news barely reports it. It is up to us to pitch in as an entire world community to take care of not only our own children, but all others too. It takes the world to raise a village. And this village really and truly belongs to all of us.
Why is our desire to defend the right to bear arms greater than the right of children to a safe life?
Why is it so rare that the press actively reports the story of a child shot and killed in a poor community?
All children are our children, wherever they live, and whomever they are, and it is our duty to protect them, defend them and give them their rights. The right to safety, to food, to water, to shelter, to a quality education.
How can we help, right now?
First, join us this Wednesday from 4:30 to 6 p.m. for a Stop the Violence March with our friends and neighbors of the Polo Grounds.
Second, let's campaign together to end violence by insisting our lawmakers to keep guns off of the streets, out of the homes of our children, and out of the hands of people who cannot be responsible with them. No exceptions.
All are welcome to this Wednesday's Stop the Violence Walk at the Polo Grounds, 2965 8th Avenue at 155th Street, from 4:30 to 6 p.m. If you can't join us, consider supporting organizations such as The Children's Village (childrensvillage.org) and LitWorld (litworld.org). Together we are working to create change and hope on behalf of New York's at-risk children. Urge your lawmakers to keep New York City's gun control laws strong and for stronger gun control laws in every city to protect our children's rights.