In the aftermath of the Sandy Hook Elementary tragedy, educators in African-American and Haitian-American communities are trying to calm ethnic tensions to make sure gunplay doesn't overflow into some of the county's most at-risk academic centers.
"I don't want the same thing that happened in Sandy Hook, Connecticut, to happen in Palm Beach County," said Ronald Leonard, a retired Palm Beach County educator and leader of the Black Educators Caucus. "The tension is bubbling between these two groups -- this is a preventative measure, what we don't want is the violence in our community to spill over into our schools."
A long-standing discord between Haitian-American and African-American gangs in Palm Beach County has taken the lives of several young students, but leaders in the black community are setting up an infrastructure to help make sure the violence stops -- or at the very least stays outside the classroom.
As part of a two-day summit in January, the Black Educators Caucus of West Palm Beach has invited educators, community leaders, fraternity and sorority members, ministers, activists, students, gang members and concerned residents to the Inlet Grove Community Highschool in Riviera Beach to discuss ways to help their schools and surrounding communities minimize the tension between Haitian and African-American gangs.
On Jan. 14, the caucus will form outreach groups, which plan to go to schools and mentor at-risk students and students already in gangs. On Jan. 15, there will be a teen-only meeting, which aims to encourage teenagers to talk about stress and mental health issues.
"We want to open up an avenue in the community where gang members can speak," Leonard said. "If a student gang member has beef with another gang member, let's not have them run back to the gang; let's talk it out with counselors and people that can help."
It was a very public and violent display between African-American and Haitian gang members that gave birth to this effort.
At a Sweet 16 party in Riviera Beach in September, two teens were shot dead and six people were injured after a Haitian gang member allegedly fired his gun in a crowded room.
The accused shooter, Rijkard Emmanuel Jean Baptiste, 20, is of Haitian descent. According to police, he he feared for his life after he had been in several altercations with African-American gang members. Baptiste is charged with killing two African-Americans, Antonio Marvin Hinds, 17 and Andy Joseph, 16.
In January, at the South Florida Fair, two teens were shot because of underlying gang tension.
Source: Sun Sentinel | Attiyya Anthony - firstname.lastname@example.org or 561-243-6648 or @attiyya_sun