Addressing the Negative Impacts of Community Violence During COVID-19: Violence Prevention and Restorative Justice
The third and last youth conference took place on December 15th 2020 on Zoom and covered the tough topic of violence and its impact on our community, and especially our youth. We see familiar faces leading this conference – talented leaders that will positively impact other lives one day – Liana Parish, Griffen Castillo, Chloe Armstead, and Jonathan Piper II. But we also get to know several new young people that leave us amazed with their resilience, sense of optimism and most importantly, their messages for us as adults.
In this conference, we learn about important programs that address violence and offer a pathway towards healing and restorative justice. With a 40% increase in homicides in Oakland since 2019, after a long streak of decreased violence, these organizations are as important as ever.
Joshua Rogers introduces Youth Alive, an organization that focuses on breaking the cycle of violence through prevention, intervention and healing. One of its programs is called Teens on Target (TNT) which trains high school students and young adults from neighborhoods with high levels of violence to be peer educators. They share their stories and experience with other kids and help them through their challenges.
Kimberly Higareda, a Fremont High student is part of TNT and her passion for her community shows. She emphasizes the importance of giving kids the space in school to not only talk about academics, but also open the conversation to the things happening in their homes and neighborhoods. This is especially important during this pandemic, when kids are unable to interact in person with their friends. Kimberly shared a slide that lists several resources for young people in Oakland (insert slide).
Valeria Ahumada from Oakland Technical High School introduces another program in the Oakland schools called Restorative Justice (RJ), a set of principles and practices used to build community, respond to harm/conflict and provide individual circles of support for students. RJ understands that conflict is a normal art of being human and focuses on building people up instead of tearing them down. This video shows the powerful impact of this program for students at Fremont High.
Kenny Johnson is a victim of gun violence and plays basketball in a wheelchair. He is an awe-inspiring person who demonstrates that adversity doesn’t have to stand in the way of doing our best at all times. He motivates all attendees to keep a positive mindset during these challenging times. Staying active and being patient are his key ingredients to getting through the days and his recommendation for all of us: Never take life for granted and try to help the community. Kron 4 TV showcased his resilience.
Towards the end of the conference, we hear from three adults that are active creating change in our communities. VanCedric Williams, educator and newly elected OUSD Board member representing District 3, West Oakland, Regina Jackson, CEO East Oakland Youth Development Center and Chair of Police Commission and Dr. Clifford Thompson, newly elected OUSD Board member for District 7, East Oakland. Regina’s work building bridges between the community and the Police department stands out as critical, especially in a time when police violence spans the headlines regularly in our media. She is on a mission to create a paradigm shift by helping police officers see all people as people first. Through her work with the officers, she gives community perspective around the trauma that people live through and how it shows up. She takes her focus on young people to the police and appeals to a culture of compassion first and foremost. Her big wish is that the community can trust the police again.
And to end this conference, we experience a wonderful message from Oakland artists Wolf Hawk Jaguar, Santos Soul, and Dr. Lynne Morrow as they present their song from Oakland to the rest of the world: “I Love You!. Their performance says it all: I love you.
Resources for Oakland youth include:
By Janine Grossmann @ Quest For You
“People have the nerve to question if we should wear masks.
It’s not an option; it’s a necessity.
We must weave it into our daily tasks.
As if breathing in others’ coughs is worth the cost.”
These poignant lines are part of a powerful poem written and recited by Liana Parrish, during the first of three youth conferences, held on Zoom on November 17, 2020. It was hosted in partnership with youth leaders and a Coalition of a community-based organization called the Oakland Frontline Healers. Liana is a student at Bishop O’Dowd High School in Oakland and was one of several charismatic and creative teens steering this conference with their messages on COVID awareness and resilience.
And leading they did. Their message to other youth and adults was clear and direct: please take COVID seriously. When adults argue, defend, and wordsmith, our teen leaders are miles ahead of us. They know what needs to be done and they tell us, in their language, in their paintings, collages with their favorite movie characters, via written words like Liana’s poem, and even with their own music and videos:
Former Oakland High School student Chuyi Fang shares a video she made that should be shown daily on national television, it’s that good. And funny: “chin warmer” doesn’t protect against the virus. Only teenagers can say it so candidly.
It is often through art that young people express their deepest concerns, and at them same time cope with them. And while the outlook of this pandemic during the time of this conference was rather grim, the messages these kids have for us is one of hope.
Sariyah Shabazz, another poised student from Bishop O’Dowd, shares tips on self-care that some of us adults could really use. The first one – unexpected, yet powerful, and spot-on:
These creative young leaders and their messages demonstrate their resilience, and thereby set an example for all of us who may feel lost, hopeless, or even confused at times. They remind us, in their unique way, that while this pandemic may seem overwhelming, we all have only very little we need to do in order to stay safe.
By Janine Grossmann @ Quest For You
Did you know that as of August 2, there were 11,4841 confirmed cases of Covid-19 and 189 deaths in Alameda County? We want YOU to help change that! Vision Quilt is part of a county-wide initiative encouraging young people to wear masks.
We’re inviting young people ages 13-24 to submit original creative works focused on encouraging youth to wear masks.
The four categories for submissions are:
Youth can submit up to two submissions— once we receive your submission and evaluate it, you’ll receive a $30 Visa Gift Card!
Vision Quilt will share selected submissions on social media, and we will choose one submission in each category to compete in the Alameda County Public Health Department’s All Alameda County Mask On Campaign. The winners of the County Mask On Campaign will have their work used in public messaging throughout Alameda County!
Register here to participate in the contest: https://forms.gle/KJGV8AEZqPpQ7pAG6
Upon completing your registration, you must submit your piece(s) by September 10, 2020. Submissions should be emailed to firstname.lastname@example.org or texted to 541-690-6976.
Here is a powerful blog post from Samantha Pelayo, one of our Vision Quilt interns:
We hope everyone is doing well during these uncertain times. Since we aren’t certain whether we are going back to school this fall, Vision Quilt provided us with art kits that keep us learning and being creative. As students at one of the schools that received the art kits, we wanted to share our experience with the art kit. My name is Samantha and my brother’s name is Lorenzo, we both attend Lighthouse Community Charter Public School. I participate in the Vision Quilt Teen Council. My brother is currently participating in the project alongside his 7th grade classmates.
After completing his project, my brother reflected that the easiest part of the art kit was when he was brainstorming what his panel was going to look like. His brainstorming included what types of symbols and quotes would be best to represent the word he had chosen. The word he chose was "peace" because he thought it would be best to bring positivity to his panel, and to the idea of gun violence. The thing he enjoyed the most about this project was being able to share his message. At first, my brother was a bit confused and overwhelmed with all the papers he received, but with the help of Charlie’s video and myself, he was able to understand what he had to do in order to complete the project.
My brother also stated what his most helpful resource was: “The most helpful resource was my sister because she helped me with feedback. When I didn't understand something or I was confused she would clarify it for me. Finally, she both gave me inspiration and structure for my ideas.”
I believe the reason why I helped him so much was because he needed a reminder of his personal connection to gun violence. I was also present during the event he mentioned, where a man was shot by our home so I understand what he must have felt like, especially since I know him well. I believe every student should have a family member or teacher help out. This topic might be overwhelming or confusing but having someone else to be there with you helps -- especially if you are willing to share something personal you went through.
Overall, this experience was fun. The best part was the art kit, getting creative, and spending time with family. Although we did run into a bit of our dark past, we are still grateful that we got to share our experience.
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