Spike Lee, Activists Speak Out Against Gun Violence in Pope

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Academy award winning director Spike Lee (left) speaks to an audience in Pope Auditorium. (PHOTO BY CECILE NEIDIG/THE OBSERVER)

By CECILE NEIDIG
Asst. News Editor

As part of New York Peace Week, activists gathered at Fordham Lincoln Center’s Pope Auditorium on Wednesday, Jan. 20 to rally against gun violence. Speakers included New York City Public Advocate Letitia James and Council Woman and chair of the Public Safety Committee Vanessa Gibson. The discussion against gun violence was moderated by Associate Professor of Political Science at Fordham Lincoln Center Christina Greer. On the panel were director Spike Lee, author Deepak Chopra, founder and CEO of LIFE Camp, and Erica Ford, a student activist and a mother who lost her son to gun violence. In addition to this, Tony Award winning poet Lemon Anderson performed alongside Impact Repertory Theater, an activist community-based theater company.

LIFE Camp’s New York Peace Week hosted events Jan. 15-22 in honor of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s legacy of nonviolence in activism. Ford, in opening the event at Fordham called for peace. “If we could have peace for one week, then we could have peace for two weeks, then we could have peace for three weeks, then we could have peace everyday of our lives,” she said.

“If we could have peace for one week, then we could have peace for two weeks, then we could have peace for three weeks, then we could have peace everyday of our lives”–Erica Ford

Ford continued on, “that to bring peace, the mindset that violence can be used as a resolution must change and that a system that deals with gun violence must be present in all communities.”

James echoed the need for change and called on young people to instill the change. “Young people have stood in the way of tanks at Tienanmen Square, young people organized Civil Rights movements and young people were part of Black Lives Matter. It’s the young people who are here who are going to increase the peace on the streets of New York City and all across this nation,” she said.

The black lives lost to gun violence, James said, are often ignored. “We have got to work together to achieve peace because gun violence on our streets is not equal opportunity. The victims of gun violence are…young black men of color in our communities.” James also mentioned that young black men are five times more likely than a young white man to die from gun violence.

James emphasized the need to invest in communities that are plagued by gun violence and divest in gun retailers, like Walmart.” Gun violence is eroding the future of an entire generation,” James concluded.

Councilwoman Gibson also spoke on the need for investment in these communities byway of offering positive opportunities for young people and affirmed the immediacy for which action needs to be taken. “If not us, who? If not now, when? We cannot wait,” she professed to a packed Pope Auditorium. Gibson acknowledged the need to stand “for fairness, for justice, for opportunities for our young people. Giving them a pathway to success and reducing that pipeline to prison that we know exists in our communities.”

“…We have to bring value back to life. Many of us are only vocal when the cops are shooting us.”–Spike Lee

In facilitating discussions with the panel of activists, Greer asked for discourse on the most effective ways to end gun violence and promote peace. “I think we’re doing it right now,” Chopra replied. He said that the more people talk about this issue, the more people can then spread the knowledge through media.

Lee implored that people should promote peace and end violence, “For me…we just have to come to the place, no matter how much you hurt, we have to bring value back to life.”

“Many of us are only vocal when the cops are shooting us,” he continued.

This week’s events marked the sixth annual proceedings of LIFE Camp’s New York Peace Week, but the first year that Peace Week is on New York City’s calendar.