What do we owe the next generation?
That was the question on the agenda at the latest installment in a series entitled Community Conversations on March 25th.
Community Conversations are led by Isa Abdur-Rahman, Esq. Isa is an area attorney and a community activist/visionary who has been working to promote a positive image of Southeast Queens. Over the years Isa has promoted the benefits of Farmers Boulevard. He has assisted in bringing new businesses into the commercial strip and integrating artists and community members together. With these mini think tank conversations, Isa is expecting to engage residents in dialog that can positively affect the community.
“Too often we speak about the negative in the community and don't know how to engage positively. I want to provide a means where we can do that,” said Isa.
This conversation focused on the youth and residents’ obligation to this next generation.
“We owe because we were blessed.”
“People poured into us.”
“It's our community.”
“Someone did it for me.”
“If you don't…the youth will disturb you neighborhood.”
“I owe expectation to the generation behind me.”
“A role model life…demonstrate a good life yourself.”
These were some of the reason why participants believed it was important to give back to the youth.
Participants included representation from all age groups from those in their golden years to young activists. The youngest participants were at ten and fifteen years old (a mother brought her children). This allowed a chance for residents to hear experiences from the youth and those who engage with them.
Kevin Livingston, founder of 100 Suits for 100 Men, spoke about past frustrations as a young man attempting to take a leadership role in the community.
“I was frustrated that the baton wasn’t being tossed,” he said of community meetings that in the past did not acknowledge youth attempts at leadership.
Bilil Karriem, a youth community mentor, spoke about how young people do not want to be judged and how they are looking for opportunities.
“Put aside their sagging pants,” he said. “They do get it. They are afraid to try and fail. They don’t know how to get through those doors.”
Three members from LifeCamp, a group which works against gun violence in Southeast Queens, had plenty of advice to offer those present.
“Meet them where they are. Accept their do-rag…their sagging pants,” said Kenya.
“We are all parents to the community,” said Willie Santos who spoke about an upbringing that included being raised by everyone in his community. This type of community parenting is something which he does not see happening today. He challenged those present to “Engage with them…Lose the fear…Make them think," he said.
Willie also suggested adults lead by example to “forcefully expose” the youth to good behavior.
This series of conversations takes place at a Applebee's on Jamaica Avenue. The restaurant allocates a private space in the rear of its second floor restaurant for the discussion. Food and drink are available and as the discussion takes place in the evening, participants can take advantage of half priced happy hour prices.
The location is an added bonus to the conversation as participants have a chance to experience their community while talking about it. Applebee’s is one of the few sit down causal dining restaurants in the area. Its grand windows offer spectacular views for people watching and a glimpse at all the recent changes along Jamaica Avenue.
Future topics conversations in the series will be Young Adult Ministry, Arts and Culture (featuring a band from York College) and The Importance of Rewarding Ourselves. Conversations are every other Tuesday. The next conversation is April 8th.
Applebee's offers free parking with your meal for up to three hours which is another reason to participate.
To join the conversations, contact Isa Abdur-Rahmen at firstname.lastname@example.org or 718-262-0881.