Photo by Christina Santucci
Cynthia Curtain stands with her grandson Deshawn Curtain, 18, at the Eastern Queens Alliance’s event entitled, “Quelling Growing Teen Violence in Southeast Queens.” Deshawn spoke about how he was shot during a party last summer.
By Christina Santucci

At first, Deshawn Curtin didn’t think he had been shot.

When the now 18-year-old Queensborough Community College student realized he could not walk after hearing loud noises while attending a backyard party last summer, he initially thought he had twisted his ankle.

“But then I saw a hole in my sneaker,” he said, while attending a workshop organized by the Eastern Queens Alliance to address youth violence in southeast Queens.

A total of 11 people were shot during the farewell party in South Jamaica in August, including a 15-year-old girl who was paralyzed, Curtin said.

The bullet fragment is still inside Deshawn’s ankle, his grandmother Cynthia Curtin, said.

On Saturday morning, the soft-spoken teen, his grandmother and nearly 100 other young people and activists gathered in York College’s faculty cafeteria to discuss the topic “Quelling Growing Teen Violence in Southeast Queens,” as part of the alliance’s latest Community Café installment.

“I’m here because of the youth violence I’ve seen recently. There are too many guns on the street, too many kids trying to be gangsters,” Deshawn Curtin said.

Cynthia Curtin, a 30-year activist in southeast Queens, is an EQA board member.

“[Deshawn] is not a street kid, trust me. He grew up on tough love,” she said. “It could happen to anyone, anywhere, anytime. I recognize that no one is safe anymore as long as they have all of these guns out there in the hands of 15-year-old criminals.”

Police said Tuesday there had not been any arrests in Deshawn’s shooting.

As part of the EQA event, participants were grouped together at tables and given the opportunity to discuss problems and possible solutions.

Brett Scudder, an activist from Far Rockaway, was paired with 10-year-old Harold Dauphin, of Rosedale, and they discussed the effects of bullying.

One issue raised by attendees was that activities held to steer young people away from violence are more often attended by those less likely to be involved in questionable activity to begin with.

“The ones who need to be here are not here. How do we get them here?” Cynthia Curtin asked the crowd.

Several young people suggested social media as a way to reach more teens.

State Sen. Shirley Huntley (D-Jamaica) praised the event’s organizers for addressing violence involving youth.

“I think these young people will go back and tell other young people,” Huntley said.

Huntley pointed to a shift in parenting practices in recent years as partly to blame for a rise in violent behavior.

“We need to go back to some of the old traditions, like homework,” Huntley said. “Today, a lot of young people are on their own with homework.”

Deshawn Curtin credited his grandmother with keeping him on track but added that sometimes even good parenting cannot protect young people from violence.

When describing the shooting to the audience, he said, “I was not doing anything wrong. I was just there, and that doesn’t have anything to do with the parents at all.”

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