Queens 2000 discusses violence in SE Queens

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"Although I had many family members by my side, the streets had my total attention," Raynor told more than 100 people who turned out at the Queens 2000 event.

Raynor, 40, eventually cleaned up his act and no longer uses his street name. On Sunday, he was one of several speakers at Queens 2000, an event organized to bring awareness about violence and death in southeast Queens.

The main symbol of Queens 2000 features several neatly arranged rows of photographs, nearly 60 pictures of smiling men, women and children from Queens as well as other areas killed in street violence. The photos are available on both posters and T-shirts.

For Raynor, it held special meaning.

"A lot of the brothers on this shirt were my true friends," he said, referring to the Queens 2000 memorial shirt. "I, too, could have been on that shirt.

"What affects me most is watching their children," he said. "What I call strong are the kids who have to live without a father and a mother."

The audience, made up mostly of parents and young children, featured several politicians as well including City Councilman Archie Spigner (D-St. Albans), City Councilwoman Helen Marshall (D-East Elmhurst) and U.S. Rep. Gregory Meeks (D-St. Albans).

Erica Ford, co-organizer of Queens 2000, said "this is to commemorate a number of young people who we lost before their time."

Ford, who is running for City Council next year, cited a number of barriers to the success of youth in southeast Queens, including a lack of affordable health care and housing, quality education, drugs, and guns.

"Only as a strong community can we break through those barriers," she said.

One organizer who hosted the event, Jeffrey Copeland, said "we're still here and trying to make a difference in our community by presenting positive solutions and different choices."

Spigner pushed for children and teens to make different choices, urging the younger members of the audience to avoid being arrested.

"Far too many of our young people are impeded in what they want to do" because they get arrested, he said. "Do all that you can do to fully enjoy and take advantage of the opportunities that are out there."

Marshall urged parents to support their children and told young people to seek out support.

"Even though you're a strong parent, the forces outside your home affect your child," she said. "Strengthen yourselves, young people. Sometimes when you feel that street is getting a little too rough, go into a church."

Bonnie Rhodes, whose son Larry is featured on the Queens 2000 shirt, said she attended the event to help prevent the deaths of other children.

"Maybe I can be some kind of model," she said, "since my son did die a useless death in the street."

Larry Rhodes, 24, was shot and killed one block from his home in southeast Queens in 1989 after he argued with a man over a parking spot.

His father, Johnny, said "it's a tragedy. We're hoping something will be done."

After her son was shot and killed in 1994, Ann Williams began a scholarship foundation in his name.

Queens 2000 was an important event, she said because "if you can reach any children, you have to help them go straight."

Curtis Purnell Williams was shot on Guy Brewer Boulevard while coming home from one of his three jobs, his mother said.

Williams is featured on the Queens 2000 shirt, as are several other famous faces, including rappers Tupac Shakur and Christopher Wallace, known as Biggie Smalls or the Notorious B.I.G.; Anita Smith, one of the five victims of the Wendy's massacre in Flushing in May, who lived in Jamaica; and Tennille Keitt, a pregnant St. Albans mother who was found dead inside her home in September after a fire.

"I had to take something bad to make something good," Ann Williams told the crowd in the York College auditorium about the death of her son. "We have to do something."

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