EO Rec Department hosts Gang Awareness Workshop

EAST ORANGE, NJ — Naima Hall, who serves the Passion for Purpose nonprofit group and My Brother’s Keeper in East Orange, organized a seminar on gangs and gang culture and how to combat it Thursday, June 15, at the Fellowship Civic Center. Detective John Marcelli of the Essex County Prosecutor’s Office Narcotics Task Force was present at the event.

Members of the East Orange Recreation Department and the community at large participated in an informal information session in which Martelli spoke on how to recognize gang members by their signs, symbols, tattoos and language; where the gangs operate and recruit new members; and what to do about a young person who is suspected to have joined or is considering joining a gang.

“Look at your kids … if they’re trying to live that life, they’re subconsciously going to be writing things down and they’re manifesting what they basically want to be,” said Martelli at the event. “(If he) carries a gun or makes threats about using a weapon, that’s huge. Signs of drug use (include) withdrawal from family, loss of interest in after school activities. (If) you got a stud basketball player who doesn’t go to practice anymore and you find on him (on) the block, that’s a problem, because it’s something that he truly loved … or (if) he truly loved going to a Sunday dinner with the family and you don’t do that anymore, there’s something else that you love and it must not be good.”

Vicki Lewis, the East Orange Recreation Department supervisor of girls activities, also participated in the Gang Awareness Seminar and said she was impressed with Martelli and his presentation, describing it as both timely and relevant.

“We just had a workshop with the Essex County Prosecutor and he told us all about real gang signs, gang awareness, where it started. Some of it we were familiar with right here in East Orange, like Illtown and Naughty By Nature, but listen, it’s life,” said Lewis on Thursday, June 15. “Some of the stuff we didn’t know, some of it we did. Some of the stuff we heard about, but we didn’t know what those things meant, (such as) the signs, the brands that people wear on them. So it was very eye-opening, educational that we know these things. We deal with kids, we deal with young lives and we definitely need to know how to handle this when we come in contact with it. So it was really awesome. It was great.”

“I would like to thank Detective Marcelli for today’s workshop on gang awareness which is very important going into our summer months,” said East Orange Recreation Department Director Osner Charles on Thursday, June 15. “Statistics show that, in urban communities, gangs breed in parks, especially during the summer. It is very important to that we host this workshop to keep our summer employees and the community educated and aware of the signs of gang activity.”

Synergy is also a good thing and, according to Charles, Hall and the Passion for Purpose group, taking the initiative to organize the seminar fits with the goals of former President Barack Obama’s national initiative, My Brother’s Keeper.

“This workshop is more aligned with (My Brother’s Keeper) goal No. 6: Keeping kids on track and giving them second chances,” said Charles on Thursday, June 15. “By equipping our employees and community with this knowledge, they now have the ability to step in and save a child’s life that is going to take a step down the wrong path or redirect one that is currently on the wrong path. The East Orange Department of Recreation and Cultural Affairs saves lives.”

With that in mind, Charles praised those who work for him on behalf of the East Orange community, as well as the city’s entire Public Safety Department, through the guidance of Director Sheilah Coley, police Chief Phyllis Bindi and fire Chief Andre Williams.

“I would also like to thank our My Brother’s Keeper coordinator, Naima Hall, for facilitating this workshop,” said Charles.

Hall said it was a pleasure to organize the seminar and it all came about because of a free course she had enrolled in with the county.

“I hooked up with Detective Marcelli, because I just graduated from a seven-week class on public safety with the Prosecutor’s Office in May,” said Hall on Thursday, June 15. “This was a powerful, powerful event and we’re looking forward to what’s necessary to save our youth in the city of East Orange. I got the (recreation) department involved, because I understand that it’s needed. We can have organizations and different programs going on, but it’s good to get other resources to be a part of what you’re doing to connect, because we don’t know everything so, therefore, you have to lend out a hand to get information, to be a hand for somebody else. ”