NORWALK, Conn. — TheDailyNorwalk.com accepts signed, original letters to the editor. Letters may be emailed to firstname.lastname@example.org.
To the Editor,
The facts about what happened on Memorial Day at the city's beach are not 100 percent clear, but a few things are obvious to us:
• There was an altercation, and we agree that no one has the right to intimidate or fight any other patron of the city's public beach.
• The majority of the teenagers (more than 90 percent) at the beach that Monday were not committing any offenses and therefore had every right to patronize the city's public beach.
• A Norwalk Police Officer incorrectly perceived and profiled a large group of teenagers as gang members. Police cannot expect to have a positive relationship with communities like South Norwalk when it is obvious by this incident that they incorrectly view us all as criminals.
We're not pointing blame in Monday's event; however, we will take this time to point out a significant contributing factor that led up to this incident.
Lack of Youth Activities: Norwalk currently and historically has lacked activities for teenagers. For decades, teenagers have been limited to riding around in a friend's car, playing video games and occasional stops at the beach — the beach being the one constant for teenagers in Norwalk. For years, South Norwalk leaders have asked for funding to create opportunities for teenagers and youth in our community. We cherish every positive opportunity available, which is why we fought so hard for funding for the Summer Youth Program.
Despite our leaders asking for funding and funding coming into Norwalk for the purposes they fought for, either via the mayor or the Norwalk Police Department, programs are lacking for South Norwalk youth. Norwalk Police Department has reported to our congressman that they have trouble getting kids to attend their programs funded with federal gang prevention funding. But you never see them actively recruiting kids to their programs. Where are the fliers and announcements about these programs? Memorial Day would have been a perfect time to hand out fliers and recruit kids to programs funded with federal gang prevention funds, but we didn't see any of this.
We can't let our kids be bait to gangs; we need positive funding and programs for our youth in South Norwalk, one way or the other. Our police department has to be held accountable, our mayor has to be held accountable, state legislators, and our congressman. There is no excuse for the fact that out of $1 million in federal community grant dollars sent into Norwalk this year that only $4,000 went to support a youth program located in South Norwalk (that program being the Maritime Aquarium which is similar to the beach, our children will be unwelcome by some). And only about $40,000 of that $1 million went to youth programs in the entire city of Norwalk. We feel the majority of the funding should have gone toward youth programs that cater to minority and at risk youths: ignore the youth and you ignore the future.
On another note, we are sad that so many Norwalk residents were so quick to assume that all of the kids at the park were gang members. Some people claim that the Trayvon Martin situation could never happen here but it is obvious that although actual gang members make up a very small number of African-Americans and Hispanics in Norwalk, we are all incorrectly perceived as such.
Travis Simms, Sandra Stokes, Ernie Dumas, Phaedrel (Faye) Bowman, Nabil Valencia, and Martha Dumas comprise "A Better South Norwalk"