It's not as if people aren't pounding the pavement in this
The Men of Color have more than a few North End corners covered.
Communities That Care, NEST and YMCA continue to take kids,
sometimes from rival groups, to bond at Camp Woodstock.
Mayor Eddie Perez is still meeting with at-risk kids in their
And there were no fewer than a dozen ministers gathered on
Martin Street on Tuesday for an anti-violence rally on the
site of the city's latest killing.
But after two bloody weekends in a row, we have to start asking
ourselves if the right people are out there - because obviously
something's not working.
"We're here to tell you that we love you," the Rev.
Donald Johnson, of the HOPE Street Ministries, yelled into
his bullhorn Tuesday. "We understand how things are with
At a building nearby, a group of teenagers watched the display
with a mix of amusement and disdain.
"They don't know [anything]," said a teenager named
Chris, who perched himself on top of a railing to get a better
view. "That's what they need to understand."
It was a blunt assessment, but not an altogether inaccurate
There's no shortage of people trying - a few for the check
or the celebrity, most with the earnest intention of saving
young lives - but the bodies still pile up.
No one wants to knock those who are out there with good intentions
- who have been for big chunks of their lives. They're trying,
some people told me. Who else is out here? others said. No
one wants to tell someone who's gone gray working these streets
that it's time for a new plan, a new generation.
But given the attitudes of the kids on Martin Street, and
those at 18-year-old Jashon Bryant's funeral last week - none
of whom had any use for the community leaders who showed up
- that's what needs to happen.
At 35, Iran "Smurf" Nazario,
a former Los Solidos gang member turned youth activist, is
younger than most who've been working the streets. But a
couple of years ago, while recruiting for a job program in
the city, he realized the street recognition he was used
to from city kids was gone.
They didn't know he was a former Solido; they didn't much
care. And as timeless as he once thought the name Smurf would
be when he took it as his nickname years ago, he joked, he
realized some of the kids didn't even know what a Smurf was.
The group he approached
was cordial, but they didn't open up until a guy who knew
him from his Solid days waved. "Because
I was OK with him, I was OK to them," he said.
Nazario realized that day that if he wanted to continue to
make an impact on the streets, he was going to have to change
his approach. And as much as being the front man was once his
role - he was the spokesman for the Solidos - it was no longer
"I'm old to these kids," he
So at Bellizzi Middle School, where he is now the coordinator
of the student and family assistance center, he surrounds himself
with people whose age and experience are closer to the kids
who are now on the street.
"After a while, your past, your past associations just
aren't enough to get through to kids," he said. "There
has to be a connection with the kids out there, and if the
only connection is a past they aren't even old enough to remember,
something has to change. You have to change.
Unfortunately, not everyone is as prone to such self-reflection.
At a recent community meeting at the Village for Families & Children,
I sat next to one of the community activists who filled the
audience and the stage.
As one of the panelists spoke about parents' need to step up, he began to chuckle.
What's so funny? I asked him.
"Aw, she's been saying the same thing for 30 years," he said, laughing some more.
Of course, he knew that because he's been around just as long.
Last week's column about Claudia and William Harris got many of you riled. The
Hartford couple, whose car was shot up outside their home on Mather Street, got
stuck with a $67 towing bill after police took the car to dig out the bullets
for evidence. You called to express your outrage; a few of you even sent checks.
Thanks, but they're on the way back to you: A day after the column ran, police
visited the Harrises with an apology and a check.
Reprinted with permission of the Hartford Courant.
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