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In Wake of Shootings, Newark Residents Fight Back


The schoolyard slayings are only the most recent in a string of tragic Newark murders. Now, the community is banding together to try to end the violence. Yusef Ismail is executive director of Stop Shooting Incorporated, a neighborhood organization dedicated to bringing peace to Newark streets.

Yusef, welcome.

Mr. YUSEF ISMAIL (Executive Director, Stop Shooting Inc.): Thank you.

CORLEY: Well, set the scene for us, if you will. How bad has the violence gotten in Newark?

Mr. ISMAIL: Well, the violence is just very overwhelming because we're out here everyday and we're trying to fight the violence, and then when such a brutal and heinous crime happens like this, it's like a slap in our face. But we felt as though the violence, it was kind of coming down, kind of - it was getting better. And then things like this happen. Usually, in the summertime in the month of August, a lot of brutal type of crimes like this happens for some reason.

CORLEY: And what is your group doing in the wake of these slayings in the schoolyard?

Mr. ISMAIL: Well, in the wake of these slayings, we always are here in the community. We always are here working hard, working with the youth trying to stop people from committing senseless acts of gun violence. But right now, we're working with a host of community leaders, individuals, residents; we actually signed a peace proclamation, a nonviolent pledge, if you may, with various residents of the community and with various organizations, businessmen and political leaders. This is a collaborative act because we understand that we can't do it alone, so we're definitely reaching out to everybody in the community.

CORLEY: How confident are you that people are going to stand by that kind of pledge?

Mr. ISMAIL: Well, I'm pretty confident because people are just fed up. People are fed up with all the violence that's going on in our city. And a lot of people are ready to step up to the plate and do whatever they can to do to stop this type of violence. And when something like this happens, then a lot of people really rally around this cause. And we're getting calls from everywhere, from people just asking us what can they do to help. And it's really a lot of - we're getting a lot of support.

CORLEY: Mr. Ismail, I would imagine, though, that the people who are calling you and the people who are signing that pledge are, as you say, people who are fed up, who are ready to take some action. How do you reach the folks and how does your group reach the folks who may not be as committed and maybe the people who are involved in committing these sorts of things?

Mr. ISMAIL: Well, I believe that our people are like - it's the old saying, it's like monkey see, monkey do. And when they see, they have to see results. They have to see people. The more people they see rallying for this cause and the more people that we gather up, then the more and more people will start joining, even those who you would think would never join.

CORLEY: Well, the mayor has been catching a lot of flack for this - Mayor Corey Booker. He ran on a campaign of reducing crime. Do you think that criticism of him is fair?

Mr. ISMAIL: I won't say it's fair, you know? But when - I mean, when you're the leader of a city, then you're going to get a lot of heat when things like this happen. But at the same time, he does have a responsibility just as we have a responsibility to stop this. And - I mean, he should - whatever resources or whatever he can do to stop the crime and the violence, then that's what he should do. But I believe that it's a community problem. And we have to stop them within ourselves because no one person or one group could stop this alone.

CORLEY: Well, thank you so much for joining us.

Mr. ISMAIL: All right. Thank you.

CORLEY: Yusef Ismail is executive director of Stop Shooting Incorporated, a neighborhood organization dedicated to bringing streets - bringing peace to Newark's street. He joined us from member station WBGO in Newark, New Jersey. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.