Mon, 06 Nov 2006

Continuing his life’s work - Newsday

Continuing his life’s work
November 06, 2006

I don’t want all of Hykiem’s work to be in vain. Bishop J. Raymond Mackey Sr. prayed that a gang member with street credibility would somehow help him in the battle against violence. His prayers were answered two years ago when he met Hykiem Coney. ’I asked God to send me a hard-core gangster, to turn him around and for him to help me turn around others,’ said Mackey, pastor of Tabernacle of Joy Church in Uniondale. ’[Coney] helped me to understand the process and what it would take if we were going to be serious about helping these gang members.’ Coney, 24, had given up crime to work for Mackey’s Help End Violence Now Coalition, or HEVN. After his split from the Outlaws gang, which is affiliated with the Bloods gang, two years ago, he and Mackey headed a crusade against gang violence. When Mackey met him in 2004, Coney had served four years in prison for drugs and weapons charges and was wounded in a drive-by shooting.
Under Mackey’s tutelage, a charismatic Coney became a national mouthpiece for HEVN, and he and Mackey touched countless lives in troubled communities.
But Coney was shot Oct. 21 as he left a Uniondale bar and was on life support nearly five days before he died.
More than 3,000 mourners attended his funeral Thursday and he was buried Friday. His death prompted the community to reexamine how to end violence through programs like HEVN. Mackey vowed to continue Coney’s work.
’Before Hykiem came into our life, HEVN was strong, but he made it stronger,’ said Mackey. ’I don’t want all of Hykiem’s work to be in vain.’
Mackey woke up one morning in 1999 with a vision of HEVN, which he would later model after the Boston TenPoint Coalition, a religious-based group in Massachusetts fighting against violence and drugs.
Mackey, a minister for 23 years, was ’tired of serving [in funerals] over lifeless bodies of so many children’ who were victims of gang violence, said Legis. Roger Corbin (D-Westbury), deputy presiding officer of the Nassau County Legislature and a HEVN executive board member.
HEVN, which Mackey said is understaffed and is strapped for funds, offers mentoring as well as after-school programs to help participants earn GED diplomas.
Hempstead Town Councilwoman Dorothy Goosby, who sits on HEVN’s advisory board, said Mackey is a natural in dealing with youth, recalling a time when he talked dozens of young men into seeking God at a funeral for a slain gang member in Hempstead.
’When they look to him, they can see the truth and caring in his eyes,’ she said.
Mackey, married with three children, often takes his nonviolent message where needed.
’The bishop went some places that might not be for a man of the clergy,’ said Legis. Kevan Abrahams (D-Hempstead), another member of HEVN’s advisory board.
’My heart’s desire was to go where they were to reach out to them,’ Mackey said. ’Fear has not ... kept me from going places I needed to go.’
It was Coney, Mackey said, who injected new life into the HEVN program and has influenced others who will rise in his place.
’HEVN is bigger than Hykiem and Bishop Mackey,’ he said. ’It will continue and others are going to step up and work with us.’

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