A community center named Sean Elijah Bell Community Center, after shooting victim Sean Bell, will open in Jamaica, Queens. A march is planned from the spot where he was killed by police, now called Sean Bell Way, to the opening of the community center at 107-52 Sutphin Blvd.
Valerie Bell, Sean’s mother, expressed happiness to turn the tragedy into something positive. “It really makes my heart happy knowing that we’re doing something positive. I wanted to do a center like this to keep [his] name and his memory in the community he grew up.” Bell’s father, William Bell said, “Someone was taken away from us and we want to try to save some other people. There’s so many things that could be done in our neighborhood.”
Leroy Gadsen is the president of the NAACP’s Jamaica branch. He believes in the impact community centers can have on youth and the community at large. “When you offer a place to go after school, when you offer mentoring, that combats your high unemployment rate. That combats your high crime rate and your drop-out rate,” he said. He also believes the name of the community center will remind every one the value of life.
The managing director for the Sean Elijah Bell Foundation, Anthony Anderson, also weighed in. “It’s something that’s well-needed in the community. There’s a lot of kids hanging out on the streets because there’s nowhere for them to go.” He stated the center is funded by a grant from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development and will serve about 2,000-5,000 people a year. The center will provide GED help and mentoring programs, tutoring, and referrals for job training programs. The community center is said to be fully open and operational next month.