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
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!
This 2018 midterm election season, Vision Quilt has been active in supporting youth groups in getting out the vote. The youth led Empower Coalition is shaping a new future by bringing their #PowerToThePolls. Under the umbrella of the Women’s March Youth Empower, Vision Quilt is collaborating with over 100 organizations and youth groups to address critical issues on this year’s ballot. Youth and college toolkits were offered to encourage students to launch voter registration drives on their campuses.
Working through a national online network, the Empower Coalition created teams to develop a strategic social media campaign. Our goal is to encourage young people to learn more about areas of legislation that will affect their future. Along with the Brady Campaign to End Gun Violence, MOMS Demand Action, Students Demand Action, Giffords Courage Campaign and the Parkland students’ #Road to Change, Vision Quilt promoted voter registration and education on legislation around gun reform. Vision Quilt is a non-partisan organization, but we are committed to preventing gun violence and youth empowerment.
Team Enough is creating an inclusive platform for young people to speak out about gun violence prevention. Visit https://www.teamenough.org/who-we-are/ to learn more about Team Enough and the work they are doing to challenge gun violence in America.
Vision Quilt urges people of all ages to go the polls to vote for Gun Sense candidates. Over 2,200 Gun Sense candidates are on the ballot on November 6.
PLEASE VOTE- we need to elect candidates who will commit to end gun violence.
We at Vision Quilt are deeply concerned by the recent emboldening of white nationalism, neo-Nazis, the Ku Klux Klan, and other hate groups in the United States. In the wake of Charlottesville, awareness of such extremism has been a topic of national conversation, but racial violence has long played a shameful yet significant role in U.S. history.
Our country was born from a vision of freedom and equality for all, but this vision has fallen short of its promise for too many people. This vision stops short amidst the country’s legacies of slavery, displacement and genocide of native peoples, years of hostility toward a host of ethnic, religious, and migrant communities, the ever growing disparity between the prosperous and the poor, and more. As the poet Langston Hughes wrote, “America never was America to me.”
Note: This blog is the second of two entries about Vision Quilt’s experiences in working with students at Lighthouse Community Charter School in Oakland, California. In the first entry, Founder Cathy DeForest shared her thoughts on working with students in the classroom. In this blog, Board Member Jack Harbaugh shares what it was like at the student exhibition.
By Jack Harbaugh,
Vision Quilt Board Member
What an inspiring day. The eighth graders from Lighthouse Community Charter School were hosting an exhibition at E 14, a cool, new art gallery in Oakland. You could see and hear their excitement as they set up for the event that evening. The exhibition was the culmination of their three-month learning expedition on gun violence. Vision Quilt had been an important part of this journey, and many of the panels created by the students would be on display.
Families and friends of the students were invited to attend so there was a lot of pride and energy as they went about their tasks of getting the various booths constructed, the musical instruments set up and tuned, and the information tables organized.
The students were curating the exhibition themselves, and while the teachers were there to give direction and lend a hand, the eighth graders were responsible for getting everything ready for the event.
They also prepared themselves to be docents for that evening, rehearsing what they would say to each guest as they viewed each exhibit.
By Cathy DeForest, Vision Quilt Founder
Sometimes there is a moment when you realize the work you are doing matters. It is making a difference. You can see it, feel it, hear it in the voices of those around you. This is happening for me every time I walk into Lighthouse Community Charter School in Oakland, California.
Over the past couple months, Vision Quilt has been working with 7th and 8th grade students and teachers at the school as they study gun violence. It is an extraordinary three-month expeditionary learning program, and Vision Quilt is honored to be a part of it.
We are sharing the mission of Vision Quilt with these young students and we are working with them as they made their own panels. Many of these students are exposed to gun violence on a regular basis and to hear them talk about it is powerful and sobering.
We want to share a quick photo blog from the Women's March in Ashland, Oregon. There was a huge gathering for our little town-- a great feeling of community and support. Dozens of people chose to wear Vision Quilt panels as they marched. Gun violence is a women's issue!
We have exciting news to share! The Vision Quilt team has added a new tools section to our website and we believe this will help us reach many more people much more quickly. The online toolkit has many of the elements of our boxed toolkit in an easy to download format.
The online tools are organized in the same way our folders are set up in our regular VQ kit.
Create Powerful Panels which includes workshop plans and handout materials.
Engage Your Community features guidelines, strategies and information on volunteers.
By Cathy DeForest, Vision Quilt Founder
As Vision Quilt works with communities to find solutions to gun violence, we do our best to stay informed. What’s at the core of the problem? Where is the need the greatest? How can we make a difference? What types of interventions are most likely to bring change? To gain perspective we scour research and news articles on a regular basis.
Sadly, we find the stories about specific acts of gun violence every day. But, the ones we want to share are the pieces that help us understand why and help us focus on which efforts to prevent gun violence are working.
News, events and announcements from Vision Quilt