GREENBURGH, N.Y. – People from across Westchester County addressed the discrepancies here among blacks and Latinos on Saturday afternoon at Greenburgh Town Hall.
Panelists spoke and listened to concerns in a discussion titled “Civil Rights and Wrongs,” where concerns ranged from a lack of jobs for black and Latino youths to the basic perception of the community, both from outsiders and those living here.
Damon Jones, the New York representative for Black Law Enforcement in America, said that crime — especially gun violence — has been an important issue to tackle in black and Latino communities in Westchester County.
“The education system only graduates 50 percent of black and Latino students,” Jones said. “We need our elected officials to cross party lines and address this. We can start by having a dialogue to make Westchester County a place where everyone can benefit — not just some people.”
Mount Vernon City Court Judge William Edwards said it is a problem that the New York State criminal justice system treats 16- and 17-year-olds as adults. Edwards said they should be treated as juveniles — along with 18-, 19- and 20-year-olds — adding that it makes no sense to send a 16-year-old kid to prison for a year for stealing a bucket of chicken.
“I would give him 60 days,” Edwards said. “We always talk rehabilitation but that can’t happen with youth that hasn’t been habilitated.”
Frank Williams, head of the White Plains Youth Bureau, said that part of the problem stems from parents not having enough money for food, which affects their children. Williams said that summer jobs for youths have greatly decreased, and many young people’s dreams of becoming athletes, musicians or rappers are mostly unrealistic.
“It starts in school,” Williams said. “When they graduate high school, a lot of them fall by the wayside. We need to start fixing the problem at the early stages of development.”