by Malik Washington
On Wednesday, Nov. 19, 2020, at approximately 8:54 p.m., shots rang out on Bertha Lane in Hunters Point. Two of our community members were left dead. Lamar “Chi-Chi” Williams, was 38 years old and Demarree Hampton was 30. I spoke with our District 10 Supervisor Shamann Walton the morning after and learned he himself had been at the hospital, hoping these men would make it through.
On Tuesday, Nov. 24, Supervisor Walton held a press conference in order to address the recent spike in gun violence in the Bayview Hunters Point community. Supervisor Walton invited numerous community activists and organizers as well as concerned citizens.
I was in attendance to cover the press conference and my immediate takeaway was that Walton wants the response to the violence to be community-oriented and fact driven. Our supervisor started off by saying that he could have held this press conference virtually via Zoom, but that the recent loss of life and violence in our district has been happening too frequently. This conference needed to be an in-person event.
The safety plan calls for three immediate actions: Increased role of the City and County of San Francisco in public safety, establishment of a D10 Violence Prevention Convener, and reimagining community mobilization and peace planning efforts. Furthermore, the following strategies will be addressed in the plan:
- School-based intervention and prevention
- Mediation and truce negotiations
- Increased community partnerships and coordinated interventions
- Increased transportation and transit safety
- Culturally responsive service providers
It is one thing to look at the plan on paper and it is another to see the plan be applied and come into fruition. Supervisor Walton embraces the multiracial, multicultural, unified approach to solving problems and this was reflected in the speakers at the press conference.
A point that often gets overlooked and ignored when we address the increase of violence in our community is the lack of quality job opportunities for the people of Bayview Hunters Point. When Dr. Willie Ratcliff first came to San Francisco in 1950, he told me that Hunters Point was the happiest place he’d ever seen. Why?
Firstly, everyone had a good-paying job at the Shipyard. Everyone had hopes of buying a home and maybe going to college and starting a business. At that time, Bayview Hunters Point had the highest rate of homeownership in San Francisco. Now? We have the highest rate of foreclosures.
Supervisor Walton said that many times the City made excuses for not providing the funding or the resources that our community needs to thrive and survive. This time, he said, he would not stand by and be silent.
Secondly, for over 20 years Black contractors have been locked out of city construction projects. My question is: What good are all these damn construction trade training certificates if these folks won’t hire us? We have to start drawing the connections between this increase in violence and this advanced gentrification program being forced on us that began long ago with the lack of jobs! Put our people to work!
Supervisor Walton called out the City of San Francisco for its historical aloof attitude toward the needs of the citizens of Bayview Hunters Point. Supervisor Walton said that many times the City made excuses for not providing the funding or the resources that our community needs to thrive and survive. This time, he said, he would not stand by and be silent.
Walton is prepared to put pressure on City Hall to ensure the safety of our neighborhoods – but he encouraged more members of the community to get involved in order to create opportunities and outreach to our youth.
There were a number of speakers at the conference who represented a diverse cross section of our BVHP community. Every speaker had something relevant and meaningful to say. However, it was the words of a few that really grabbed my attention.
Raymond Whitley has been hired to be the D10 Violence Prevention Convener. Mr. Whitley brought his mother to the podium and shared his personal thoughts on how he intends to work as a team member within the framework of Supervisor Walton’s Community Safety Plan.
Whitley stated: “The safety plan that Shamann is implementing is needed for our elders, our generation and the ones after and before us. My job: I am 10 toes down. I’m in the community, in every community, asking my generation what they need and how we can provide and bring resources to them in order to open doors and provide opportunities.
“My goal is to inspire my generation and the ones before me and make sure it is community led and community driven. Honestly, it seems they sure hire a lot of people from out of state to help us – and they can’t relate. We have to be together on this.” Raymond Whitley reminded everyone about Jas Young, another victim of violence, saying he has not forgotten about the loss of life and his commitment to the Young family.
The next speaker was Eddy Zheng, founder and president of the New Breath Foundation. Eddy began by honoring the Muwekma Ohlone people who originally lived on this land we are occupying in San Francisco. “That struggle of being colonized and having their land taken by white supremacist systems is the same system that is killing the Black community.
“We can never forget the history of the perpetuation of systemic racism that created this type of intergenerational trauma that the African American community is still suffering from. When the African American community suffers, we all suffer.”
Eddy mentioned the work that he did with Lamar “Chi-Chi” Williams in attempting to stop the violence through the Community Response Network. Chi-Chi was a brother who wanted to see an end to the bloodshed in our community. Now he is gone.
Eddy mentioned his desire to create a multicultural youth leadership program “that focuses on teaching our young people their history and their culture; where they came from and how they got here. Our liberation is tied to each other.
“How do we address anti-Blackness that is rooted in all our communities? I am also aware of the challenges from many in the Asian American community who don’t understand how that anti-Blackness is conditioned internationally.”
Eddy continued: “As we see attacks on Asian American elders and Chinese elders, we are saying that is not acceptable. We also need to step up to say that it is not acceptable that it is happening every day in the African American community and the Latin community, with all the violence and all the poverty the people have to deal with. This is how we can help to turn the D10 violence prevention plan into a peace plan.”
Next we heard from John Jacobo of the Latino Taskforce and Mission Peace Collaborative. Mr. Jacobo declared that, although he is in the Mission, he will answer the call for aid and assistance when our brothers and sisters in District 10 make the call, saying: “We understand the plight and the pain that exists for our Black brothers and sisters.
“We understand that when we say, ‘Black Lives Matter,’ it is not just a slogan: It is a legitimate push to help elevate the Black community and Black leadership. When the Black community does well, we all benefit.”
These speakers from the Black, Asian and Latinx communities are representative of our culturally diverse neighborhood here in Bayview Hunters Point. If we are to move forward with successfully implementing this peace plan, we will need all hands on deck – and these are my words as your new editor and member of this beautiful community.
Nube and I have found a place to live right here on Oakdale Avenue, so know that we are not some outsiders who come to work here and then go off to the suburbs. We are here with you, and all of us at the SF Bay View newspaper will help this community any way we can!
No community press conference on the topic of safety would be complete without hearing from a member of our youth. Kierre Garrett is a HOPE SF champion and he is from West Point, the exact place where the press conference was held.
If we can’t learn to live together as brothers and sisters in our community, then we will perish as fools. We will be extinct.”
Kierre was a sincere and passionate speaker, describing the work of his grandmother, Lottie Titus, and how she went above and beyond the call of duty to obtain the necessary resources and help for this community. Kierre said that he is committed to following her example, sharing these words:
“A lot of the violence that is going on right now is senseless, and we need to talk about our healing process and how to heal from all the trauma that we have been through so far. It is time that we come together as a community and stop thinking that we got so many differences than similarities.
“We actually have a lot of things in common. We all are going through the same stuff. We all have lost someone dear to us. We all have went to the house and not had any food in the house. We all have been raised by our grandmothers, mom or father in this community.
“I think it is time that we come together once and for all in order to combat these dark forces. If we can’t learn to live together as brothers and sisters in our community, then we will perish as fools. We will be extinct.”
Kierre wrapped things up by asking everyone to play their role and support Shamann as he pushes forth this initiative. He made it clear that although he hails from West Point, he has love and respect for all of our neighborhoods that make up San Francisco.
As a servant of the people, it is not my job to grab the mic and control the narrative. My job is to report exactly what is taking place in our community. You are the newsmakers; I am your humble reporter and servant.
Let’s love one another and settle our differences in a peaceful manner. Black lives will only matter if we make them matter – by preserving and protecting them.
Dare to struggle, dare to win! All Power to the People!
Bay View Editor Malik Washington can be reached at Malik@sfbayview.com. Contact him whenever you see news happening. Please visit our website, sfbayview.com, and share the knowledge, wisdom and understanding and Black culture contained in our one of a kind national Black newspaper.