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
Vision Quilt is proud to share our newest video, "Amplifying Voices: Building Partnerships to End Gun Violence." The four minute video focuses on our partnerships with schools, grassroots organizations and community leaders in places like Oakland and Chicago.
Vision Quilt empowers communities to create their own solutions to gun violence through the power of art and inclusive dialogue.
Partnerships are at the heart of our work. "Amplifying Voices" showcases some of our partners, including: Adamika Village, The Ark of St. Sabina, Catholic Charities East Bay, Lighthouse Community Charter School, MOMS Demand Action, Oakland Violence Prevention Coalition, Women in Need of Discovering Their Own Worth, Youth ALIVE!
Share this video with friends, and learn how you can support our work in 2020!
In other news, Vision Quilt was featured in an article by Pam Rocco for the April/May issue of Quilting Arts Magazine. We are thrilled to receive such support from the quilting community, and we hope many magazine readers are inspired to create their own Vision Quilts!
By Cathy DeForest, Vision Quilt Founder
Upon returning from the Codex Book Fair I feel energized, even exhilarated. With more than 200 exhibitors from 26 countries, Codex is one of the largest's book and fine arts fairs in the world. Lasting the better part of a week in Richmond, California, I was thrilled to be an exhibitor, surrounded by so many creative and inspiring people. It was also an opportunity to introduce the Vision Quilt to more people.
This mural at RYSE Youth Center depicts youth overcoming challenges through working together in Richmond, CA.
With dozens of panels from the Vision Quilt on display, we shared the project's message with hundreds of people, and I met a number of inspiring individuals also working to prevent gun violence. Individuals like Francisco Rojas and Jed Rodriguez from Richmond's Ryse Youth Center, who work to create "safe spaces grounded in social justice that build youth power" with a focus on empowering young people to "love, learn, educate, heal and transform lives and communities." Ryse Center staff visit hospitals to support gun violence victims and their families as well as offer young people counseling, academic support, job support and opportunities for artistic expression.
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