Front of Queens Museum to Illuminate in Orange Now Through June 30 in Solidarity

QUEENS, NY – Families of victims of gun violence, joined by elected officials, leaders and advocates, gathered this evening in a borough-wide inter-faith vigil for the victims of the Charleston hate crime massacre, and to illuminate the front exterior of the Queens Museum in orange, the official color of New York State Gun Violence Awareness Month. In solidarity with the gun violence awareness efforts, the front exterior of the Queens Museum will be illuminated in orange every night from now through June 30 in “The World’s Borough” and will be visible by all motorists along the stretch of the Grand Central Parkway in front of the Museum (approximately 168,000 motorists daily on average).

Sponsored by Queens Borough President Melinda Katz and District Attorney Richard A. Brown, the ceremony began with interfaith invocations by Rev. Dr. Alfonso Wyatt of the Greater Allen A.M.E. Cathedral of New York, Dr. Ghassan Elcheikhali of the Razi School, Rabbi Robyn Fryer Bodzin of the Israel Center of Conservative Judaism and Pastor Richard Hogan of the Divine Deliverance Ministry and father of Laseam Hogan (victim in 2010 at age 27). Also in attendance were Public Advocate Letitia James and State Senator Leroy Comrie.

More family members of gun violence victims from Queens were also present, including Vernell Britt, mother of Latina Irene Bilbro (victim in 2006 at age 18); Angela Burt, wife of Terence Burt (victim in 2004 at age 35); Caroline Dixon, mother of Darrell Lynch (victim in 2010 at age 24); Wanda Manley, aunt of Kevin Miller (victim in 2009 at age 13); Shenee Johnson, mother of Kedrick Ali Morrow, Jr. (victim in 2010 at age 17) and Penny Wrencher, mother of Andre Saunders (victim in 2009 at age 32). Advocates and community leaders spoke, and amidst the lighting of dozens of candles, family members then read aloud some of the names of New Yorkers lost to gun violence, culminating in the illumination of the Queens Museum in bright orange.

“Together as one borough of families, we mourn the loss of lives taken by senseless gun violence that has spared no home, not even the neighborhoods here in the ‘World’s Borough’,” said Borough President KATZ. “We remember their names today, each one a very real cost of unbridled firearms and weaponry in our streets. Charleston in particular has exposed an additional area of weakness in our country, what Mayor de Blasio aptly called, ‘the intersection of racism and guns’. Charleston has compelled us as one nation to hold up a mirror, to reevaluate the progress we’ve made and take a hard look at the tremendous yet necessary work that remains. As the most diverse county in the country, Queens represents everything that the killer abhorred. And together, as one borough of over 2.3 million people, we don’t deny it – we condemn this heinous act of hate and of terror, rooted in such deep-seeded racism. Because how do you deny that it’s hate when nine victims were targeted in a historic A.M.E. Church and when the killer said, ‘You’re raping our women and taking over the country’? How do you deny that it’s racism when the killer stated he hoped to start a ‘race war’? How do you deny that it’s terrorism when the killer purposefully left a witness? It is undeniable, the need to suture the divisions that we can no longer dismiss as mere ‘problems of the past’, the need to eradicate racism which comes in as many forms as there are inequalities and disparities in opportunities.”

“I am pleased to join with Queens Borough President Melinda Katz and so many others in commemorating Gun Violence Awareness Month and remembering those who have senselessly lost their lives to acts of gun violence,” said District Attorney BROWN. “Our presence is a clear indication of our collective – and continuing – commitment to combat the threat posed by gun violence in our society. As members of the Queens community it is imperative that we join together our voices and be heard as one to denounce the unacceptable level of gun violence and each of us to do our part in any way possible to take back the streets from those who perpetrate such violence. In a country where a gun is manufactured every ten seconds and a person is shot approximately every five minutes, it behooves us all to stand up to this madness for the sake of our children, families and community.”

“Like so many others, I was deeply saddened to hear about the deadly attack on the Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church in Charleston last week,” said State Assemblymember MICHAEL DENDEKKER, Chair of the Veterans’ Affairs Committee. “The nine innocent people killed in this attack join too many others whose lives have been senselessly lost to gun violence, and this incident exemplifies the continued need for gun control legislation throughout the United States. It is with heavy hearts that we observe Gun Violence Awareness Month in the month of June, and we offer our prayers to the families and loved ones of all those who have been victims of gun violence.”

“With the confederate flag still flying on the grounds of the South Carolina State Capitol, we clearly have not dealt with the legacy of slavery and racism that persist in our country,” said Councilmember RORY I. LANCMAN. “As we come together to remember and honor the victims of the Charleston shooting, we show that in our nation’s most diverse city, equality and fellowship will triumph over hate.”

“Housed in the building that historically served as the first home of United Nations General Assembly and a site for two World’s Fairs, the Queens Museum continues to pursue the UN ideal of ‘practicing tolerance’ and the Fair’s theme of ‘Peace through Understanding,’” said LAURA RAICOVICH, Executive Director of the Queens Museum. “With this in mind, we are proud to participate in today’s important Gun Violence Awareness effort.  Unfortunately, there are daily, tragic reminders of lives cut short by guns in our society.  While legislators tackle this pressing issue, arts institutions, community groups, and each of us individually must play a part in providing outlets for positive self-expression, non-violent resolution, and dialogue. I hope the orange glow of the museum’s façade will remind each of the passing motorists of our collective responsibilities.”

“The Talmud teaches us that silence is equivalent to acceptance,” said RABBI ROBYN FRYER BODZIN of the Israel Center of Conservative Judaism.  “The time has come for real action. Houses of Worship should be places of comfort and uplift for the body and soul, not killing fields. If we can learn anything from Charleston it is that nobody has the right to stand idly by.  We must put an end to the violence causes by guns.”

Names read during tonight’s ceremony (includes but not limited to Charleston massacre victims and lives from Queens lost due to gun violence): Andre Hakiem Sanders (Dre Most); Andre Simpson; Angel Figuero; Angela Worthy; Anthony (Face) Robinson; Anthony Clark; Anthony Robinson; Antrone Simpson; Benny Goodman; Carl C.J. Fuller Jr.; Christopher Hall; Cody Khan; Colbert Johnston; Corey Davis; Corey Ramone Davis; Curtis Purnell Williams; Cynthia Hurd; Daesean Hill; Dallas Gilchrist; Dalu Grey; Dane Freeman; Darkim; Darrell Lynch; Darryl Adams; David Alston; David Marshall; Deja Robinson; Derrick Moore; Detective Keith Williams; Dontae Smith; Donzel Chesson; Ebony Williams; Edward Smith; Elrick Hopkins; Eric Smith; Ethel Lance; Greg Mobley; Gregory Mobley; Jahad Marshall; JaJa Shahada Ramibey; Jamel Green; James Paulin; James T. Richberg II.; Jeffrey Bellamy; Jerwaine Gorman; Julian McGhee; Julian Smith; Julio Walker; Karim H. Titus; Kedrick Ali Morrow Jr.; Keith Murrell; Kevin L. Miller Jr.; Larry Brown (Jamel); Larry Rhodes; Laseam Hogan; LaTina Irene Bilbro; Lee Smith; Lemarr Wilson; Leta Webb; Lionel Pickens (Chinx); Michael Sanders; Myra Thompson; Nelville Ward; Nomar Anderson; Orian Alexis Forbes; Orin Hogan; Paul T. Smith (Smitty); Raheem Wallace; Raheem Wallace; Raymond Rogers (Freaky Tah); Rayquon Elliot (Stack Bundles); Rev Clementa Pinckney; Rev Daniel Simmons Sr.; Rev Depayne Middleton-Doctor; Rev Sharonda Coleman-Singleton; Richie Myers; Ron “Du” Baldwin; Sean Bell; Shakim Fields; Sharrod Harris; Shawn Owen Plummer; Shonnon K. Day Sr.; Susie Jackson; Taurus Madden; Terence Burt; Terrell Fountain; Tony L. Blue; Tony McFadden Jr.; Troy Singleton; Tyquan Jackson; Tysheen Coakley; Tywanza Sanders.

Gun Violence Awareness Month has been commemorated in New York State ever since a resolution proclaiming June as Gun Violence Awareness Month was unanimously approved by both houses of the New York State Legislature in 2013. The commemoration is part of an effort to raise awareness surrounding the issue of needless and senseless gun violence in New York’s communities. The focus of this effort is to encourage and promote bipartisan efforts to address the gun violence problem.

The goals of Gun Violence Awareness Month are to promote greater awareness about gun violence and gun safety, to attract heightened attention about gun violence during the summer months (when gun violence typically increases) and to bring citizens and community leaders together to discuss ways to make our communities safer.