by Davey D
The killings we see and hear about taking place not just in Oakland, but in communities all around the country via intra-community violence are such that they simply can’t be tucked away under a rug.
These tragedies pierce our souls and touch our hearts. They leave us sad, angry, traumatized and frustrated, especially if you organize or are in any way politically active and know intimately the forces at work that help foster a climate where Black and Brown life is devalued.
There are no easy answers to putting an end to violence in our community. At the same time, we need to be crystal clear and acknowledge that there are many people in our communities who as a result of violence stepped up and have been doing the difficult work of mentoring, providing support services, educating and just being there for young people who are often victims of these crimes.
Many lost loved ones of their own and as a way to heal and make sense of their tragedy started groups and programs. Others simply had enough. Some are 20 years old. Others are relatively new. Some are run out of churches. Others are run out of schools. Some established stand-alone centers. Still others put together businesses. Some do work to help folks who are just getting out of jail, while others put in work to help prevent folks from going.
The point being made here is that in Oakland and the Bay Area in general, there is no shortage of groups and people doing the work. When tragedy struck, there were many who knew it was gonna take more than a march or candlelight vigil to stop violence in the community. They knew it was going to take replacing crumbling infrastructure that was deliberately allowed to fall apart.
There are no easy answers to putting an end to violence in our community.
They knew that there were many who hold economic and political power who saw crime, chaos and death in Black and Brown communities as more profitable than education and life affirming upliftment. For example, it was no accident that our Mayor Libby Shaaf cut summer jobs and somehow forgot to get a $2 million grant for youth.
Her lack of action and commitment is not unique. It was reflective of a larger policy where you see disinvestment in youth and increased investment in police and jails. You can find the same scenario playing out all over the country with lots of fancy excuses being given to justify the move.
The end result is we have shortages of resources needed to help our youth and folks in the community who are marginalized. The challenge before each and every one of us is how will we support the work already being done and fill the gaps left by those in power? There is no need to reinvent the wheel. We need to be asking how can we add to the wheels already in motion?
The other day I was at a community meeting and one of the speakers said that a big thing that’s needed is for more adults to volunteer their time at local schools. She stressed the importance of folks showing up and being a positive presence. How many of us have done that on a consistent basis?
We have shortages of resources needed to help our youth and folks in the community who are marginalized. The challenge before each and every one of us is how will we support the work already being done and fill the gaps left by those in power?
She noted that it’s important that the community be there to see what they as teachers are up against. There’s a shortage of books, computers and other materials. Many of our kids have tremendous needs that one teacher in a class of 20-30 kids can’t possibly provide. How are we stepping up to change that dynamic?
Someone noted that at young ages our kids should be taught conflict resolution at school. At early ages they should be taught life affirming skills and they should be taught that their lives are not cheap and disposable.
Does the common core curriculum being forced on our kids reflect that reality? Does it reflect their reality at all? Does it uplift their minds and spirits and last a lifetime, or does it only teach them only how to take a state sponsored test? If so, how are working to change that?
Currently we have Oakland school administrators who are spending money on personal private security vs. putting money into classrooms. How is that allowed to happen on our watch? Are folks taking time to go to any of the schools?
We have scores of youth centers and organizations that have sprung out of community tragedy. How many of us who will stand before a crowd and proclaim we need to do something about Black on Black crime have actually walked inside the doors of any of these places and put in some work? What was it like? What were its strengths? What was missing? What steps did you take to help improve those outlets?
Over the years we’ve had dozens of groups come on our radio show who deal with youth in various forms and fashions, and two things I often hear as needs. They need money and resources.
It would be nice for a few folks to get together and pool funds and make an investment in those organizations. Many of us talk about how Black people need to come together and do some sort of cooperative economics. Well, folks, there are lots of prime opportunities to walk the walk.
We have scores of youth centers and organizations that have sprung out of community tragedy. How many of us who will stand before a crowd and proclaim we need to do something about Black on Black crime have actually walked inside the doors of any of these places and put in some work?
There are community gardens in East Oakland showing young people a different way. Who will step up and help out? Do they have all the things they need? Do they have enough adults on hand?
There’s a vibrant youth organization in West Oakland that mentors, provides an array of activities and teaches our kids not to have colonized minds. Who is there for them? Is the organization financially sound? Is it politically protected?
There are organizations in Oakland who help runaway teens and step up to help stop human trafficking. There are several organizations who mentor and help develop our young girls, who are under fire in so many ways. How many of us have adopted those organizations and look out for them? When budgets were being cut, how many went down to City Hall or made phone calls demanding that not be allowed to happen?
There are organizations in our city that specialize in mentoring young Black boys. They are present in many of the schools. They are always looking for volunteers. Have any of us stepped forward?
Other organizations teach our kids how to write, do spoken word, and build on the rich legacies of past heroes and sheroes and take them on trips to Africa. How many of us who claim the community needs to come together came out to contribute and make sure the goals set by these organizations were met?
We could go on listing things, but the bottom line is this: The solutions we seek are right before us, especially in the Bay Area. Healing our community and raising our kids to have healthy minds and wholesome spirits is not a spectator sport. It’s one where we have to be active.
And let’s be clear: “Being active” does not mean being an eternal social critic who tears down everyone’s efforts under the guise of raising awareness. Being active means cutting a check, being present before the youth you say need to be raised, healed and mentored or dedicating time and resources to make sure sound infrastructure is in place so we can have vibrant institutions to rely upon.
The solutions we seek are right before us, especially in the Bay Area. Healing our community and raising our kids to have healthy minds and wholesome spirits is not a spectator sport. It’s one where we have to be active.
Yes, ideally parents should be stepping up, but what do we do if that parent is overwhelmed, incapable or simply doesn’t care? All of us are part of the proverbial village that should be on top of making sure there are brighter tomorrows for the young people around us.