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Brooklyn mom who lost teen son to gun violence: ‘There needs to be a cultural shift’

Posted at 7:34 AM, Nov 06, 2019
and last updated 2019-11-06 07:34:09-05

NEW YORK — Nadine Sylvester has an answer for people who offer her advice on recovering from the loss of her 15-year-old son, Rohan Levy.

“It doesn’t matter if you have other children,” Sylvester noted. “That’s like saying, ‘You have one hand, so you should be okay.'”

Rohan Levy, who had dreams of being an architect, was shot in the head on February 20, 2017, as he stood with several friends on Lenox Road in East Flatbush. He died several days later.

Police said the tan car the shooter had jumped out of was owned by the father of some kids later charged in a July 2019 gang case. Detectives determined Rohan Levy was the victim of mistaken identity.

Rohan’s mother, a lifelong Brooklyn resident who has a Masters Degree in Social Work, has applied her skills to help her community and those outside it, and says the mindset has to change, before more young people die.

“In my community, there’s a fear of snitching,” Nadine Sylvester told PIX11, “and I think there needs to be a cultural shift.”

Sylvester said she grew up in the 1980s, when families were impacted by the crack cocaine epidemic and the rise of HIV and AIDS.

But Sylvester added, “You didn’t have a fear of going outside, which is different.”

Now, mothers and fathers worry about their children going to the park.

Just over a week ago, 14-year-old Aamir Griffin was fatally shot in the neck as he played basketball near his home in Baisley Park Houses in south Queens. He had recently made the Junior Varsity team at Cardozo High School.

A couple of days later, a female student was hit in the shoulder by stray gunfire outside her charter school in Jamaica, Queens. Police said some of the same people were likely involved in both shootings.

Nadine Sylvester said she is now working with a group of ministers affiliated with the 67th Precinct called “The God Squad.”

But she is troubled by the sense of hopelessness she sees in some young people.

“Oftentimes, I hear from them, ‘I’m not going to make it to see 18,’” Sylvester said.

She told PIX11 she felt similar vibes from a group of Chicago young people she met at a National Day of Remembrance in Washington, D.C.

Sylvester, who has started the Rohan Levy Foundation to offer scholarship money to help young people through college, is also part of a support group for other mothers who have lost children to gun violence.

She pointed out to us her son, Rohan, should have been graduating high school this year and starting to drive.

Sylvester remains upset with laws that make guns so easily accessible.

“You can walk into a Walmart in Georgia and get guns,” Sylvester said. “The gun that killed my son came from out of state.”