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LETTERS TO THE TIMES

Scourge of Violence in Black Neighborhoods

October 29, 2003

Re "Blood and Silence," Opinion, Oct. 26: My thanks to Kerman Maddox for his sensitive piece. For the past year I have been going to one of the teen boys' detention camps in Los Angeles County for Sunday Mass and occasionally seeing teens for "one on ones" during the week.

Recently I went to a camp to visit an 18-year-old black teen I will call Robert. I thought this was to be my last visit with him before he was released. I arrived to find him in a hospital area in a darkened room with a towel over his head. I asked what was wrong, and it took him a few moments to remove the towel and tell me that one of his best friends from elementary school had committed suicide in his mother's apartment. He told me further that three of his friends had committed suicide in recent years. I took Robert to the conference room and gave him vending machine soft drinks and chips, and we talked for an hour.

Nothing in my comfortable middle-class retirement life had prepared me to counsel him. I gave what I had ... I listened, cared and carefully advised. You see, he is scheduled to return home soon and intends not to continue with gang life. He knows that he will probably have to take a severe beating "or worse" from his former gang. I have no answers but just want to affirm the seriousness of blacks killing blacks in our community.

Ralph Sariego

Woodland Hills

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Politically, I am as liberal as they come, and I agree with Maddox about our neglecting to deal with black-on-black violence. In Latino communities, Latino-on-Latino crime is also a big problem. Why wait for violence to touch our lives or our neighborhoods to only then spring into action? We already know that prevention is the best medicine, so let's work on it.

The solution is within us and within our neighborhoods. Let's be accountable for what happens in our communities -- as parents, students, artists, workers, activists, business people, individuals and groups. I join Maddox and like-minded people in their efforts and make myself available in whatever capacity I may be needed for a weekend summit -- and beyond. Si se puede! Yes, we can!

Cesar Arredondo

East Los Angeles

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