Shanduke McPhatter is the Founder of G-Macc, Inc. It is an organization dedicated to tackling the issue of gun violence and gang activity in addition to other issues that affect the youth. June is Gun Awareness Month and to commemorate it, there was a recent “wear orange” campaign. Tragically, Shanduke lost his brother Ronald “Banga” McPhatter at a concert in Irving Plaza last month. With all these issues swirling around, The Source decided to speak with Shanduke on his organization, gun violence awareness month, the loss of his brother and much more.
Can you talk about Gun Violence Awareness Month?
For me, I was one of those who wanted to change what was going on in our areas in the ‘hood. It’s about awareness. Blacks and browns are portrayed to act as animals, but there are different reasons as to why they carry themselves that way.
Gun violence is an issue that affects many urban communities across the country. In cities like Chicago and New Orleans, the violence seems to be higher in comparison to New York City. Can you talk about what’s happening in these other communities?
It’s hard for me to speak on what’s going on in those cities, but the statistics are not normal. Last year’s stats were very similar in those cities. For me not being able to be there to talk those leaders in the communities makes it very difficult to have an opinion. Different issues happen in different cities. For us in New York, based on the statistics on the areas where we focus the gun violence is going down. It’s all about communication. Gun violence is a national issue and there should be a national conversation around the topic.
There’s a lot bravado in Hip Hop and bragging about street life, with elements of gun violence. Does today’s music have an affect on the youth that are listening to it?
I try to look at it from all perspectives. A lot of individuals rap about it because it’s where they are from. Some live it and some don’t. But the music does have an effect. That’s what causes people to react and what their state of mind is like. The body accepts what the mind takes in.
What’s the difference between music when you were were younger to what it is now?
When I came up in the 80s and 90s you had gangsta music among other types of music. Now it’s a lot more aggression, but there’s also a lot more aggression in society in general. You can block out certain things in music, but society promotes violence. The younger generation adapts to it. Social media does add to the aggression. Even now, there’s Hip Hop that’s not aggressive and has a different message. The positive doesn’t get the attention the negative does.
How does your organization work with other organizations on the issue of gun violence?
I work with a lot of different grassroots organizations. Groups like Man Up, Life Camp, people like The Fertado Brothers, We Rise. People like Tamika Mallory with Justice League. People who come from Hip Hop, like Mysonne. These organizations work on issues like anti-violence, community resources, criminal justice issues and police brutality. We work to make a big difference. We focus on building with community leaders. We were present at 20th Anniversary of the Million Man March and work within the Urban Peace & Relief Coalition. It’s a coalition of community groups to combat gun violence.
What does your organization G-MACC do in the community?
Our focus is to talk to people and calm down situations. It’s prevention. We mediate on a street level. It’s a different job from the police. The NYPD is there to make arrests after the shots happen. Police get information from the streets and we are already in the streets, so we should be able to prevent things from happening. We have documented interruptions. There are ways for us to track these statistics. Within the New York City crisis management system which is funded by the City Council and the Mayor’s office. The system has over 4,000 interruptions and prevented many retaliations. The system has also employed those who have been formerly convicted to become tax-paying citizens and using their past experiences to give back to their community. Our organization also uses statistics from various agencies. But most importantly we are also in the streets talking and communicating with the people. It’s also about the resources and parenting accountability. We need to have parents who understand what we do. Right now, there is an epidemic of girls fighting and we know a fight can escalate and can turn into gun violence and we want to try and mediate those fights.
New York City is currently grappling with budgetary issues for jobs for youth in the summer. Explain the connection between summer youth jobs and the connection with the crime rate?
Councilman Jumaane Williams is pushing legislation for summer jobs and allocating funds to the youth. There are many that didn’t move to fund legislation. So you are going to have kids with idle time all day, not making any money. That adds to more crime. Summer youth jobs are crime prevention. If a job can prevent crimes for adults, it’s been proven to be the same for youth.
Can you talk about the disconnect between the younger generation and older generation and how it affects this issue?
The younger generation feels the older generation doesn’t understand them. The older generation is looking down on the younger generation as if they are a lost cause. So the younger people feel to act out towards it and a lot of the older generation don’t reach back and understand that they are our children and our commitment.
What has life been like since losing your brother Ronald a.k.a. Banga to gun violence?
If I ever think about slowing down, it changed my position. I was caught up in the system and the cycle of the lifestyle and I wanted to do better for my children. I have experienced gun violence and lost people that I knew. It’s different when it’s your sibling. I could never relate to them and now I can. It helps me relate to them on the level of knowing the emotions, grief and trauma.
How can the issue of gun violence be addressed?
Prevention is the key. Gun violence is a disease and should be tackled from a public health perspective. It’s a mental issue. It’s contagious and then we need resources to fight. Gun violence has to be addressed first and foremost as a public health issue, looking at it from a mental aspect first. Once those who have the resources understand the effort to minimize gun violence, then we will have support for the answers to how to really address the issues of gun violence.
Gun violence has been and continues to be an issue for society to grapple with. What do you think this issue will look like in the future?
I believe the future of gun violence looks more on the positive side, the reason being people are opening their eyes and minds to the severity of gun violence and that it doesn’t just affect urban communities. So the future holds continue positive change because it’s not just the work we are doing the streets but the laws being passed for safer gun laws and safer communities.