Five days after 30 were shot, two fatally, in Brooklyn Homes, bags of leeks arrived on 10th Street in front of the community center. So did cartons of lettuce, peppers and mushrooms, jars of baby food, 10-pound rolls of frozen ground beef, and bags of frozen chicken. Hot meals of curry chicken, stewed cabbage, beans and rice were served by the sidewalk.
City employees arrived, too. They brought a mobile employment office and a mobile clubhouse for kids equipped with video game consoles and a beanbag chair. Inside the Brooklyn Homes community center, residents found help getting a job, making rent, or just having someone to talk to.
The scene Friday afternoon resembled the outreach that follows a hurricane or a flood. Indeed, a storm of sorts did pass through early Sunday, as gunfire seemed to come from every direction during the waning hours of a massive block party called Brooklyn Day, an annual celebration in this neighborhood.
“I cried all night,” said Ashia Hardy, whose home on the other side of 10th Street was out of the fray. She heard the shots and the screaming and stayed put inside. “I kept praying. It was heartbreaking. We have a long way to go for all the pieces to be put back together.”
Hardy, a grandmother of 11, was among the dozens who ventured outside Friday and waited in line to receive the donated food, and “to get some air,” she said. “This brings the community together.”
Another who came out to receive and help distribute food was Anthony Wicks, 39, who was among those injured Sunday. His wound was relatively minor, a “flesh wound,” he called it. The bullet cleanly exited his left side. He was with his 6-year-old daughter Myracle in their backyard when he was shot. She was unharmed but remains traumatized, he said. This was not Wicks’ first gunshot wound. Both shoulders bear scars of previous gunshots.
“Ain’t no kids out since this happened,” Wicks said. “They’re scared. Usually you’d hear music, people would be out, they’d be cooking, they’d be playing. There’s a lot of fear.”
Then Wicks spoke of hope. He repeated what he told Myracle: “I’ll be here, I love you, and there are better days ahead.” He also firmly believes those who did the shooting are not from the neighborhood — this was a sentiment repeated by more than a few residents — a belief, or desire, that the danger came from outside and not from within.
Venturing outside does not yet come easily, judging by the emptied, curving streets that were site of chaos and terror Sunday. Front yards and porches were empty, grills unused, sidewalks clear on a late Friday afternoon when some might still be at work. Portable lights, the type used to illuminate construction sites, stood in the road. They were brought here after the shooting, a resident said.
The streets of Brooklyn Homes, Glade, Dantry, Romlet — they are all named court — are the opposite of tree-lined. They are treeless and baked in the full sun. They are the streets cared for by Safe Streets Brooklyn, the city-funded community organization that intervenes in disputes before they turn violent.
Safe Streets members are from the communities they work in, and an everyday presence in Brooklyn, said Michael Thomas, 22, who was coming out of a convenience store at the corner of 9th Street and E. Patapsco Avenue, where Safe Streets started a march to the community center late afternoon Friday.
“They help kids find their stolen bikes,” Thomas said. “They give us food and socks. They sit with us. They put clothes on kids’ backs and feet.”
Earlier in the afternoon, Safe Streets members wearing bright orange T-shirts passed out food. They offered reassuring smiles and warm greetings. Some said they were instructed not to speak to media, and their body language suggested they did not want to. One indicated they felt unfairly judged after the shooting, as if it was their failure alone that led to the violence. Written on the backs of the members’ T-shirts is “violence interrupter.”
To interrupt, however, is not necessarily to prevent.
“How can they prevent that?” Thomas said. “They ain’t got no guns.”
Wicks spoke of the shooting as a “tragedy” and a “blessing,” an occasion to “hold each other close,” a long-held understanding that the resource they have is one another.
Corey Winfield, the site director of Safe Streets Brooklyn, was among those who participated in the march down mostly empty streets. They shouted their mantra as they walked: “Stop shooting, start living,” leading a small group that included some young children.
The goal, Winfield said to a group of reporters, was to encourage residents to “come out of their homes” and to ward off complacency. The kind of violence that took place on Brooklyn Day, he said, is “not normal.”