Dozens of residents from local housing projects came together on June 29 in order to promote anti-violence for young people at the second annual Green Day, a community effort to plant flowers and improve local gardens. Residents from each of the respective complexes spent their mornings working on their own green spaces before marching to Betances Community Center, where each they met for music and activities.
The initiative, which included Mill Brook, Adams, Patterson, Betances, St. Mary’s, and Mott Haven Houses, was led by the South Bronx Youth Leadership Council.
Young community members sang songs to denounce gun violence, and about coming together through their faith in one other. Edwin Soto, 17, performed spoken word poetry that reflected on his experience with violence in his neighborhood.
“Why is it that people paint their best pictures with weapons? These paintbrushes painted a 15-year-old boy getting butchered in front of the store, R.I.P. Junior,” Soto read.
“I think it’s a good thing to have it here especially with everything that is going on in the hood, and all the shootings that are happening around here,” said Soto. “I feel like it’s a good event to have everybody come together and just be one.”
Community Coordinator Kier Nelson, 52, a mentor for community youth, spoke about the importance of teaching them young people how to cope with their personal struggles.
“Today it’s someone else; tomorrow it could be you going through this situation, so how would you want to deal with that?” said Nelson. “Programs and events and a lot of key messages is what we need to keep pouring out to our children.”
Ronald Topping, president of the tenant association at the Adams Houses, said that Green Day brought youth together in person, something he said doesn’t happen as much as it used to.
Youth are more connected to their phones than to their environment, said Topping, adding that having young people perform hands-on tasks together helps them to connect.
The South Bronx Youth Leadership Council believes that community beautification will promote positivity for those within the Mott Haven community.
“If it looks better, people will feel better, people will act better and things will get better,” said Isis Garcia, 16.
Residents of the NYCHA buildings said that although Green Day is a great initiative that helps to promote anti-violence, true peace is not a quick and easy fix.
“This is not an overnight process. This is why we have to keep up doing this work so people will understand,” said Nelson.