Guns and drugs get passed on from New York City and young people, ending up in a city where they feel there is nothing to do but aspire to a copycat NYC gang culture often get involved in criminal activity, this might be to make a name for themselves, or simply to give them something to do. It is the trend in Syracuse for young people to walk around with large medallion style picture of person they ‘know’ (sometimes it’s not clear how well they know them) that has been killed in some sort of violence, usually gang related street violence.
The death of friend is tragic for these young people. Young people have to find space to reflect, grieve and process that, as part of this young people wear this memorial around their neck. Yet in Nate’s experience this unusual act is also more than this, it is a badge of honor, a way of aligning themselves with a particular group or gang culture. The other side of this is that these young people are getting stuck in the present moment, stuck in bitterness and despondency to the world they experience which is one of death and desolation. Unable to lift their eyes beyond it, their anger and frustration often explodes in revenge attacks and the sad spiral continues.
Reflecting on this with Nate Peña the director of Pass Da Rock and in his role at his church as a Missional Director , it seems that one of the biggest issues he finds is that young people lack aspiration and hope; they struggle to see beyond the immediate. For those of you working with young people for any length of time in the UK, I’m sure you too can relate to this – often we come across young people who do not appear to aspire to anything, not college, work or even family life.
It seems pretty sad and somewhat ironic that there are so many young people with so little aspiration in state that has plastered on every car registration plate ‘Empire State’…