Rap Video Highlights East New York Violence
by Daniel Bush
Jan 08, 2009 | 19089 views | 1 1 comments | 669 669 recommendations | email to a friend | print
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In the East New York section of Brooklyn, do guns do the talking?

The rapper Fish Grease Jenkins believes they do.

A youtube video of his with the chorus "I'm from East New York/Where the guns do the talking," has sparked protest from community leaders and police who believe the video needlessly promotes gun violence in the central Brooklyn neighborhood.

The video, titled "I'm from East New York," was shot in May of 2008 and first appeared on the Internet last summer. In it, Jenkins appears in front of various East New York housing developments where he raps, among other things, about violence and police aggression in his neighborhood. The song's controversial hook is accompanied by the sounds of gunshots.

"We're definitely opposed to what he's saying," said Tony Herbert, the founder of Urban Community Council (UCC), a Brooklyn-based community outreach organization.

Herbert said police officers from the 75th precinct recently brought the video to his organization's attention. Police officials were upset, said Herbert, because in the video Jenkins calls the precinct out by name and includes pictures of the precinct's police cars.

Officials from the 75th precinct did not return calls seeking comment for this story. The precinct is known for its high crime rate, though the area of central Brooklyn covered by the precinct has gotten safer in recent years. According to police statistics, there were 16 murders in the precinct in 2008, down from 41 a decade earlier.

For community advocates like Herbert, it still isn't safe enough. Gun violence is "an issue that we can't tolerate in our community," said Herbert, who founded UCC following the shooting deaths of two Brooklyn children in 2007. "We just got sick and tired of hearing about the violence in our communities so we took a stand."

Since its founding, the group, which is privately financed, has grown to include over 600 volunteer members, according to Herbert. UCC works primarily with low-income communities like East New York, aiding families and youth affected by street violence.

Jenkins' video, said Herbert, sends the wrong message to the youth whom he teaches about non-violent conflict resolution.

"All these kids are hearing is that in East New York the guns do the talking," said Herbert. "We don't need this message in our society."

In response to the video, Herbert invited Jenkins to participate in a December 30th event at the 75th precinct to denounce gun violence. Jenkins didn't show up.

In an interview, Jenkins denied that his video promotes gun violence, saying instead that it highlights the hardship of life in East New York.

"I'm not promoting anything that's not going on," said Jenkins. "You can look at it as a cry for help. I'm showing you what the grim reality is."

Jenkins, 25, who declined to give his real name, preferring to be identified by his rap alias Fish Grease, was born and raised in the Boulevard Housing project in East New York. Jenkins said he started rapping after returning to East New York from Clark Atlanta University, where he graduated with a double major in Business Administration and Fashion Design.

Jenkins said he declined to attend the anti-violence event planned by Herbert because it was staged at the police precinct, instead of at a community space where residents would be more likely to participate.

Herbert said he hoped his protest of Jenkins' video would not promote the as-yet unknown rap artist. Yet it seems to have done just that, which is fine with Jenkins.

The scandal over his video has focused attention on the violence, unemployment and other issues that plague his community, the aspiring rapper said.

"Now people are going to pay attention to us. Now you're going to have to do something about it," said Jenkins. "If there's no attention paid to us than people are just going to keep killing each other."

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