Update & Activism

As we continue our quest seeking financing for both projects "Just 2 Get By" (the feature film) and "Green Light: The Plague of Ethnic and Gang Terrorism" (the documentary), Charlene Lovett is jump starting her activism against the kinds of violence that led to the untimely death of her daughter Cheryl Green. With the support of her family, the community, and Najee Ali, Charlene Lovett is determined to be part of the movement to bring peace back to our neighborhoods.

I've heard much feed back from people living on the East Coast. Most are unfamiliar with the repercussions of gang violence and can not imagine that we live with such danger in our communities on a daily basis. The sad reality is that gang violence, be it black-on-black, brown-on-brown, black-on-brown, or brown-on-black, is moving east. The last time I was back home and working on a production in East Harlem I was shocked to see that African American and Latino American youth were sporting the colors of the Crips and the Bloods. The kinds of gang violence California is infamous for has not yet penetrated the east coast in the same way. However, statistically, the Feds are charting the migration of such gang involvement and it is disturbing to see the numbers grow so quickly. I've heard that cities like Atlanta are now beginning to experience ethnic and gang terrorism so violence on a larger scale is the inevitable next step unless we do something about it on a national level. This is the purpose of our projects. Our documentary "Green Light" will explore the phenomenon so stay tuned for more updates. The feature film "Just 2 Get By" dramatizes the reality of life for many of our youth struggling to survive.

For now, here is what Charlene Lovett is doing as an activist. Her organization is The Cheryl Green Youth Foundation and it's dedicated to giving young people options other than gang life. No one is born a gangbanger; no one is born a bigot. But an ignored child given no options can become both. People say it takes a village to raise a child. I say it takes that same village to prevent deaths of children, be it spiritual or physical.

Please support The Cheryl Green Youth Foundation anyway you can: http://www.cherylgreenfoundation.org/

Anti-Gun Violence Protest

By OLU ALEMORU, Staff Writer 02.AUG.07
Two arrested in civil disobedience action, as councilman backs the creation of a local gun owner registry. Civil rights activist Najee Ali and the mother of a murdered teenage girl were symbolically arrested Tuesday morning, while protesting the sale of ammunition outside a sporting goods store.

Ali joined Charlene Lovett, whose 14-year-old daughter Cheryl Green was shot and killed by gang members, and a coalition of community leaders and victims’ advocates in the demonstration outside the Big 5 store on Market Street. The coalition included Women Against Handgun Violence, Justice for Murdered Children, the Latino and African American Leadership Alliance, and the Making A Difference Foundation.

Among those offering testimony were Belinda Derouen and Annita Purnell: In 2004, less than a year after moving from New Orleans, Derouena’s 14-year-old son Joseph was murdered in Inglewood by a 15-year-old alleged Crips gangbanger; Purnella’s 15-year-old grandson, Devonya Thomas, was killed that same year by a stray bullet while babysitting his younger brother and sister on his own front porch.

Ali, director of Project Islamic HOPE, and Lovett were taken into custody by Inglewood police officers after sitting down at the entrance to the store. They were released within 15 minutes, returning to the store to say their mission, at least for the day, had been accomplished.

“Charlene and I getting arrested was a small price to pay to draw attention to the fact that Big 5 Sporting Goods and other stores are selling ammunition that is killing our children” said Ali. “Innocent people are being slaughtered. Charlene’s daughter was murdered by a handgun. Going to jail was a small sacrifice to highlight this madness.”

Ali said the coalition is calling for the store to either stop selling ammunition or close down completely. He added that he had spoken with the store’s manager beforehand, so that Big 5 officials would be unable to publicly claim to be taken by surprise.

The Wave stepped inside the store and asked to speak to the manager, but a reporter was told by an employee standing by the entrance that he was not available and no further comment would be made. A call to El Segundo-based Big 5 spokesman Rick Gridley was not returned at press time.

“Anyone, whether they are an ex-felon, on probation or a parolee, is able to come here with identification and purchase ammunition that is being used to murder our loved ones” said Lovett. “We’re here to protest against Big 5 and ask that they either stop selling ammunition or that the store be shut down.”

Councilman Danny Tabor, in whose district the store is located, sympathized with the protest but argued against its closure.

“We need to have a comprehensive strategy in dealing with guns on the streets, in the home and in businesses,” said Tabor. “In the next few days I will be meeting with the Inglewood Police Department for them to consider a request to create a gun owner’s registry. The safety of our community will increase when it’s in our ability to know who owns the firearms.”

However, any legislation faces an uphill battle getting past the ultra-powerful gun lobby. Last month, the state Senate Public Safety Committee weakened legislation that would have mandated criminal background checks for all purchasers of handgun ammunition.

Assembly Bill 362, introduced by Assistant Assembly Majority Leader Kevin de Leon and supported by county Sheriff Lee Baca and Los Angeles Police Chief William Bratton, was designed to keep handgun ammunition out of the hands of children, criminals and gang members. Additionally, the bill would have directed retail vendors to safely store handgun bullets behind the counter, and would have required face-to-face transactions involving handgun bullets to avoid easy, online access to them by criminals and minors.

The committee removed all key provisions of the bill and instead passed a watered-down version of AB 362. The bill now only contains provisions for a feasibility research study to explore the current conditions under which gang members and children can easily buy bullets. It now heads to the Senate Appropriations Committee and will be heard later this month.

Meanwhile, the protests look set to continue. “We expect the store to meet with us and acknowledge our concerns,” said Ali. “We will not rest until they stop selling ammunition to gang-members, ex-convicts and anyone that walks into the store to purchase it.”