United Against Crime, One Community at a time

By LaTasha Whitley

Summer has always been my favorite season, and New York City is the place to be to enjoy the warm weather.  There are so many parks, street festivals, and activities to engage in at all times without having to break open your piggy bank for extra funds.  Last Tuesday, August 5, I had the pleasure of attending theNational Night Out Against Crime event, hosted by the 7th Precinct Community Council & NYPD.  This was not your typical street fair.  Instead, it was a 31-year tradition that highlighted the importance of creating a cohesive peaceful community that celebrates diversity.

The first National Night Out took place on August 7th, 1984, with 2.5 million Americans participating across 400 communities in 23 states.  It began as an effort to promote involvement in crime prevention activities, police-community partnerships, and neighborhood camaraderie.  I volunteered at this year’s event with the New York Asian Women’s Center, which is the first organization on the East Coast to address issues of domestic violence and sexual assault in the Asian community.  They provide free and confidential services that are culturally sensitive and help empower survivors of abuse to govern their own lives.

I had the opportunity to meet numerous people from diverse backgrounds who were enthusiastic about fostering a safe, peaceful community.  There were several local businesses and civic organizations present, including The Educational Alliance, Empire Mentorship Initiative, Metroplus, and Henry Street Settlement (to name a few), that were disseminating information about their programs and providing insight about the resources that they offer.  There were also numerous elected officials present and clergy from multiple religious denominations that shared their thoughts about the importance of standing along a united front against crime.

I enjoyed hearing multiple languages and seeing people greet each other with a warm smile instead of a cold shoulder like on the subway.  A live band provided acoustic sounds that resonated throughout the area and free food and drinks were distributed.  There were also several fun activities for children to engage in together.  One parent kindly shared her story of survival and the many trials she encountered.  She also shed light on how the cycle of violence tends to repeat itself amongst generations and spoke passionately about wanting to help others avoid this issue.  I admired her bravery and her desire to impart what she learned to others who may be encountering similar situations. 

One of my favorite moments was showing a woman who spoke mainly Spanish how to create an Origami heart.  I was not able to translate most of what she said, but I did gather that she enjoyed creating crocheted items and selling them for profit in her country.  She liked the fact that we distributed pamphlets that were tailored to those who spoke Spanish, Chinese, and numerous other languages.  Before she departed from the table, I gave her the heart that I created, and she placed it close to her chest and thanked me.  This illustrated the impact that the smallest contribution can have on someone’s life.  Our encounter despite language barriers was genuine and compassionate.

I left the event with a renewed spirit in the belief that we can all join forces to fight against the injustice that we see daily.  It was evident that there are people who are dedicated to sustaining the development of our communities and ensuring the safety and well being of everyone despite our differences.  The message that I was left with was “Together we stand, divided we fall.”

What will you unite against? 

Image Source: National Night Out logo