Far Rockaway community activists call for peace

Maurice Williams (m) bows his head in prayer.  Photo by Gabriele Holtermann
Maurice Williams (m) bows his head in prayer alongside NYPD officer. (Photo by Gabriele Holtermann)

For the third year, community organizers held the Far Rockaway Peace Treaty event in Far Rockaway, Queens, on Nov. 5, 2022.

This year’s peace treaty, titled “No More Killing, We Are One Village,” focused on the rise in gun violence in Far Rockaway and came on the heels of the tragic and senseless shooting death of 15-year-old Jayjon Burnett at the Mott Avenue train station in October.  

The coalition of peace advocates held a press conference before marching through the peninsula, starting at Hammels Houses on 84th Street and ending at Redfern Houses. Marchers stopped at several housing complexes for a prayer circle along the route.

The event was led by Maurice L. Williams, together with former Bloods gang enforcer Eric “E-Troubz” Scarbrough. They were joined by Far Rockaway residents, violence prevention organizations, representatives from the Queens district attorney’s office and Guardian Angels, and police officers from the 101st Precinct.  

The third annual Far Rockaway Peace Treaty happened on Nov. 5, 2022. (Photo by Gabriele Holtermann)

Maurice Williams, the founder of “A Father’s Love,” a personal development institute, said that the main reason young people turn to a life of crime is a lack of “fatherly guidance.” 

“It’s an epidemic of fatherlessness all over New York City,” Williams said. “I think that is the main factor in young men and women committing crimes because there is no fatherly guidance. And so I aspire to bring fatherly influence to misguided or at-risk young people.”

His organization’s mission is to help young people turn their lives around, and he visits juvenile inmates at Rikers Island and juvenile detention centers. His organization provides enrichment services, giving at-risk youth tools to become productive members of society. The tools range from literacy and financial education, etiquette and resume building, violence interruption and job training to mental health support. 

He devises an individualized service plan for each participant centering around their goals. The project also includes working with a licensed board-certified therapist who performs a psychological exam, giving them an inside of what emotional problems need to be addressed. 

Alize Plus and Eric “E-Troubz” Scarbrough attend the Far Rockaway Peace Treaty. (Photo by Gabriele Holtermann)

Williams, who holds a master’s in communication and teaches at college level, has quite a few success stories. 

He shared that one young man got a job at the airport, and another now plays college basketball. But his most celebrated one is the story of a juvenile offender who is on his way to becoming a professional boxer. Williams predicts that he’ll become the next lightweight world champion. 

Williams believes that “the help that we usually need is within.” 

“The bigger the problem, the bigger the blessing,” Williams said. “So if your problems are really, really big, then that means that your blessing is going to be even bigger. So stay inspired and just search for the voice within. The voice within will guide you through every situation that you encounter.”

Far Rockaway community members pray during the third annual Far Rockaway Peace Treaty on Nov. 5, 2022. (Photo by Gabriele Holtermann)

Williams had high praises for Eric “E-Troubz” Scarbrough, a former Bloods enforcer who turned his life around when he publicly denounced violence, encouraging other gang members to follow suit. 

“A lot of people have known him for not-so-positive things,” Williams said. “But he has changed his life, and it helps to change the temperament of what’s going on in Far Rockaway.”

E-Troubz’s inspiration to turn his life around came from his 8-year-old son, who one day didn’t want to go to the park because of the gun violence. That day he decided to start the peace treaty. 

“I show the kids that there is more to life than picking up a gun,” said Scarborough, who grew up in Edgemere Houses and joined the Bloods when he was 16. “That’s the easiest thing to do. Leave the guns alone. I just showed them because I’ve been through it. Once they see me put it down, they’re gonna follow along.”

Colleen Babb, the executive assistant with the Queens DA, said that creating a safe community was a collective effort. The DA’s office provides $3 million in grant money to community-based organizations providing services for young people.

“The message is we have to stop the violence,” Babb said. “We have to care about ourselves and our fellow community people as much as we need to to keep the peace. This can’t continue like this because we owe it to ourselves. We owe it to our generation, our parents, our grandparents and our next generations.”

One of the tone-setting moments of the peace event was when Scarborough shook hands with former Crib member Alize Plus, a victim of gun violence who opened a clothing store after quitting the Cribs. Both men embraced, and Alize Plus praised the peace organizers.

“There is better ways. They are giving you chances and opportunities to get your life on track,” the father of two said. “For the young people that’s going to see this and watch this, you feel me? I’ve been within the mix you know, and I’m just trying to better my life right now.”

Williams pointed out that when the colors blue and red are mixed, it turns into the color purple, the color of royalty. 

“Blood, it means brotherly love overrides oppression diplomatically,” Williams said. “Crib means community revolution in progress. Right? And that’s what’s happening right now. Community revolution is in progress, and brothers override oppression diplomatically.”

All speakers expressed concern about the violence and its effect on communities and families and called for an end to the senseless killings.

NYPD Police Officer Henry from the 101st Precinct recalled that he responded to the scene of Jayjon Burnett’s shooting death. 

NYPD Officer Henry from the 101st Precinct speaks at the Far Rockaway Peace Treaty. (Photo by Gabriele Holtermann)

“It just breaks my heart,” Henry said. “We, as cops, we all have the same goal in mind as you guys. We want everyone to be safe. We all have the same goal in mind, safety for our youth, safety for everyone in the community.”

More from Around New York