Tag Archives: violence

Will Trayvon Martin’s death be a moment or a movement? Let’s create a community movement!

This weekend, I attended two discussions regarding the Trayvon Martin incident, the problems that African American’s face in our country and how we can overcome them.

[ Yes..this weekend, Black folks were actually meeting. ..everyone was invited though.]

If you have been paying attention, you know that the country, the world, is concerned about Trayvon Martin being shot and killed by a professed neighborhood watch member in Florida.

In reaction, the media and groups across the country have been in discussion about racial profiling, social justice and just how and why in the year 2012 we still have to contend with these issues 40 years after Jim Crow.

One such discussion was held in downtown Oakland, hosted by Top Ten Social, a local organization whose mission “is to push the cultural, artistic and intellectual envelope of Afro-futurist urban expression and create sustainable models through innovative events”..like a Speaker’s Series. On March 31st they dedicated time for the community to come together and to share reflections and strategies on how we should respond to the Trayvon Martin tragedy.

A member of Top Ten Social takes notes on the discussion while a community member speaks.

On Sunday April 1st, I attended a more intimate affair organized by my wonderful friend Tiffany who texted all of her friends asking for discussion and ideas on what we should do. We had a potluck at my church Memorial Tabernacle CHSC ( Christ Holy Sanctified Church) in North Oakland (Easter Services this Sunday at 10:30 am- if you don’t have a church home..:) . This event, though smaller, was a tad bit more structured. Tiffany (who is a master bossy A-type awesome organizer) came with a preset agenda, movie, food and discussion questions.

A Southern Belle - Tiffany. "Isn't she looooovvvelyyyyy???"

At both discussions we all had something to say about the problems. It was, to some, a relief to give voice to fears we have lived with for a long time. What’s obvious is that despite the amount of progress we have made (integration, right to vote, education, etc)..Blacks in America still have a long way to go.

Both discussions also generated a laundry lists of things we can do in reaction from driving down to Florida to petition a state representative, to protests, marches and boycotts, and multi-media campaigns.

I would like to talk about three solutions that came out of the discussions that help to create a community movement, and will make it hard for another Trayvon Martin moment to occur.

Check it out..

Problem: Our children are being maligned, made to believe that they are not good enough and shown that their lives are meaningless.

Solution: We need to love support and cherish our children!

Not just when there is a problem, but constantly. Even before a problem starts. When your baby is born, read to them, nurture them..tell them everyday that they are beautiful, smart and important. If you don’t have children interact with the ones you come across. Ask them how they are doing, smile at them, give them complements. Hug them. If you see a child on the street- don’t look a way and ignore them. Smile and say Hi! Don’t be afraid of them.

Tiffany says: “I ain’t afraid of no child. If they are under 20 years old..I ain’t scared of them. Now if they are over 21 that’s a different story..” *Insert South Carolina cackle*

If we spend more time nurturing our children, our children would love and cherish themselves more. They wouldn’t feel defeated when the world tells them they are nothing…and they would feel like they were capable of accomplishing ANYTHING.

Let’s also stand up for our children by supporting education and community organizations that work specifically with youth.

Oakland: One such group is Young, Gifted and Black. YGB provides cultural support to African American youth by educating them about history through poetry, music, art and movement. Members of YBG performed at the Top Ten Social Discussion and gave a tribute to Trayvon Martin that you can watch below:

Problem: The system seems to be working against us.

Solution: We need to make the system work for us.

I know that there are some cynical Suzie’s out there who feel that “The Man” controls things around here. There is no point in voting when money and greed rules the day. You can’t trust a politician as far as you can throw them..etc, etc.

But we elected Barack Obama! “Well what has he done for me lately?” Folks are unemployed, he’s killing US citizens with unmanned drones, attacking innocent state-supported medical marijuana colleges, AND he wants me to buy insurance? grumble, grumble, doom and gloom.

Some of that is true. But what is also true is that the Justice Department didn’t decide to look into Trayvon Martin’s case until we, the public, raised our voices in complaint. What’s true is that when enough of us are present..and in one accord- we can move mountains.

What’s true is that if you communicate your desires, by voting AND by attending town hall meetings, city council meetings and the like, you can take part in change. Barack Obama is one man. He can’t do this alone and he shouldn’t have to. We should take responsibility and be the change that we want to see!

We tend to react to things instead of being present from the very beginning. We reacted to Troy Davis too late. We are reacting again..to Trayvon Martin’s death, rather than the passage of a law that made his death possible. We should have been there from the beginning, when the law was introduced and shut it down.

The difference between us and “The Man” is that “The Man” participates in the system and makes it work for them from the beginning and doesn’t just ‘give up’ when things don’t seem to go their way. We need to do the same.

Oakland: an opportunity is presenting itself. Wednesday at 6 pm is the Community Police Review Board meeting, at City Hall. On discussion is “100 Block” program and the increase in crime outside of the “100 Blocks”. Gotta concern? You had better be there to make sure your concern is addressed. I can BET “The Man” will be there. We should be there too.

Problem: We don’t have a sense of community.

Solution: Get to know, love, respect and protect thy neighbor and thy hood.

Do you know your neighbor? Do you know their name? Would you go next door to borrow a cup of sugar? If you get locked out of your home, could you go to your neighbor for help? Would you trust your neighbor to babysit your child? If your car gets stolen from your driveway, would your neighbor see it and tell you? If you are screaming outside of your home because you are being assaulted would your neighbor come out to help?

If your neighbor saw you getting attacked would they report it to the police? Or does “Snitches get stitches” hold them back?

What if things were different? What if we trusted enough in our community to not let a few dictate what happens?

You can’t build community and trust without building relationships. A relationship starts with you. If you don’t know your neighbor, go next door and say hi. Bring over a cup of sugar. Exchange emergency contact info or talk about a plan in case of an earthquake, fire, flood, tornado or crazy person with a gun.

That’s just the beginning. From there you can start looking at your neighborhood and what you can do to help it. You can have block parties, and clean up days and all sorts of civic wonderfulness. Wonderfulness that is worth being protected and fought for.

As a community member at the Top 10 Social discussion stated: “We don’t have to travel across the country to Florida to make a difference, we can make a difference here at home.” We can take our communities back. It just takes us working together. That work begins and ends with us.


Soledad O’Brien had a national town hall “Beyond Trayvon: Race and Justice in America” that aired on CNN this past Saturday. Roland Martin said “This is the conundrum, will Trayvon Martin’s death be a moment or a movement”

I don’t know if we are going to see the kind of political movement like that of the 60’s.. but I think what we can all do is create a movement of community change that can be just as powerful.

We’ve lost our village. Lets bring the village back!


What do you think? Do you think we can bring back our village? Do you know your neighbor? If you heard someone outside screaming for help..would you go out to help them? Be honest!


Filed under Advocacy

A new understanding of violence and nonviolence as a tactic.

“Nonviolence is not a sign of weakness, but rather one of self-confidence and courage” – Dalai Lama tweet.

There is a debate being carried out in the #Oakland internets. Deep and contentious conversations are taking place on Oakland blogs, Facebook posts and Twitter threads about the violence that has become associated with the Occupy Oakland movement. Many advocates have withdrew their support of Occupy Oakland because they can not condone the senseless and seemingly random acts of violence (trashing landmarks, retaliating against police) and damage to our beloved city. Others feel that these acts attract the attention that is needed towards the real issues: political and socioeconomic disparities, police brutality, and local government corruption.

I think there is  confusion regarding the terms and the tactics and I think the media plays a big role in shaping our perception of what violence is and what role it plays in a movement.

Let me rephrase that. I was confused about the terms and tactics .. The media does play a big role in shaping perception of what violence is and what role it plays in a movement..but advocates can also play a role.

In a previous post, I stated that “violence isn’t graffiti or vandalizing, but violence is murder and robberies”. I had directed that statement towards the Oakland police, because I was frustrated over their focus on Occupy Oakland rather than the increase in shootings and robberies happening in Oakland recently.  Although, I still think the police need to evaluate the placement of their resources..my definition of violence (and nonviolence) has changed.

Let me share what I learned..

Webster’s 1st Definition of Violence is an..”exertion of physical force so as to injure or abuse”. I previously took this to mean directing physical force or harm onto a person..but violence can include destruction of property and low level throwing bottles and stuff at police.

How does destruction of property injure Oakland? It’s demoralizing. There are buildings and landmarks within the city that has great meaning.  For example Frank Owaga, a former city council member, was also civil rights leader and (along with his family) a former Japanese detainee during the Civil War. Destruction of  City Hall and it’s plaza is an insult to his memory and all the hard work that residents and officials put into making it into a highlight of the city of Oakland. This not only hurts ‘the man’ but it hurts the residents of Oakland and all who care about the city and have pride in it. Residents that include the 99%.

When the public sees this kind of disrespect for the city, they lose respect for the movement.

How does this kind of violence compare in the face of the brutality the police uses against Occupy Oakland when occupy engages in peaceful protest? It doesn’t. The use of tear gas and batons against a protestor is inexcusable. But this is where nonviolence comes in..

Websters definition of nonviolence:..” abstention from violence as a matter of principle; also : the principle of such abstention “.

When engaging in a peaceful protest..and the police react to you by spraying tear gas and rubber bullets, try this as a tactic: do nothing. Abstain from responding in kind.  Protect yourself..cover your face, move away..but don’t throw rocks or bottles back at them. Do not go to another part of the city and cause further destruction.

Destruction of property and other violent actions places the focus on the violence, and not on the issue. Whereas nonviolence places the focus on how the police react to your nonviolent protest and gains sympathy for the issue.

The media is the media and they are going to do what they do. However, the Occupy Movement can play a role in what the headlines are going to be.  The headlines should be “400 arrested in peaceful protest” and not “Occupy destroys City Hall”.

The police should not be able to say: “they threw rocks at us!!” when confronted by the media and the public.  The  general public (the 99%) should be able to point at the police and say “all they were doing was protesting!! Why are you using our tax dollars to focus on peaceful protesting instead of the MURDER happening around the corner?”

Where did I learn this from?

Kazu Haga leads a Kingian Nonviolence Orientation in Oakland

Abstaining from violence is just part of what I learned in using nonviolence as a tactic during a two-day “Nonviolence and Conflict Reconciliation Orientation” developed from the teachings of Martin Luther King Jr taught by Jonathon Lewis and Oakland’s own Kazu Haga from the Positive Peace Warrior Network. During this two-day workshop that included readings, videos and group activities, I learned about the principles of nonviolence and how MLK and the Southern Christian Leadership Conference used it as a successful tactic during the Civil Rights movement. During this weekends orientation not only did I gain a deeper understanding of MLK and his teachings, but I learned how nonviolence plays a positive role in putting an issue to the forefront.

I was blessed by this orientation and learned so much about advocacy and conflict resolution. This was a free workshop, but I donated not only my time and energy but a little bit of cash towards this effort, because I feel it so needed during this pivotal year of advocacy in Oakland. I feel very proud to have earned my certificate!

To learn more about the Positive Peace Warrior Network and the workshop.. read their blog! Click HERE Go to a training and support their efforts! 🙂


Filed under Advocacy, Oakland

Learning from “The Interrupters” of Violence in Oakland

It’s the end of the second week of February in Oakland, and last week there were seven homicides. You wonder if there is anything that can be done.

I was blessed to be able to watch a screening of “The Interrupters” on Thursday night (Feb. 9th) at the Oakland Museum of California.

[ I say blessed because if it wasn’t for my friend Tiffany, who has the gift of being able to talk her way into anything (even bringing a Burger King hamburger, fries and drink to the Bill Graham auditorium in SF), we would not have been able to get seats..and in the front row!]

“The Interrupters” (@TheInterrupters) is a documentary by Steve James and Alex Kotlowitz that follows the work of an organization called CeaseFire (@CeaseFire_IL) and it’s efforts to fight violence on the streets of Chicago. CeaseFire outreach workers, many of whom have had a past history of violent crimes, connect with youth to try to prevent violence through counseling and just plain ‘real talk’.

Thursday night’s preview was sponsored by Oakland’s Ella Baker Center, KQED, the Oakland Museum of California, Youth Alive! and a many other organizations.

After the movie screening there was a panel moderated by Abel Habtegeorgis of Ella Baker Center that included Eddie Bocanegra and Ameena Matthews, two of the outreach workers from CeaseFire and featured in the movie.. as well as Kendra Simmons from Youth Alive! and Anthony Del Toro from California Youth Outreach who work in violence prevention in Oakland.

(l to r) Abel Habtegeorgis, Ella Baker Center; Eddie Bocanegra, CeaseFire; Ameena Matthews, CeaseFire; Kyndra Simmons, Youth Alive!; and Anthony Del Toro, California Youth Outreach

Real Talk

I was able to record a bit of the panel conversation below..

Ameena Matthews from CeaseFire speaks on the similarities between Oakland and Chicago and why it’s important to share our history with youth today. (9. 03 min)

Eddie Bocanegra from Cease Fire talks about the consequences for him after he shot a young man while he was young and what motivates him to be an ‘Interrupter’ (7.42 min )

Youth Alive! is an organization that believes that violence is preventable, and advocates for policies that reduce gun, gang, family and rape violence. Kendra Simmons talks about her approach to counseling youth that are hospitalized as a result of violence in Oakland. (1.27 min)

California Youth Outreach helps youth involved in gangs via education, intervention programs and offering various opportunities towards future success. Anthony Del Toro talks about how to gain the trust of youth who are engaged in violence. (1.48 min)

Special Guests

In the audience were local teens and organizations that work to build a better Oakland…

  • Hope Collaborative: a grassroots effort to create a healthy, prosperous, and vibrant Oakland
  • Alameda County Health Department’s Place Matters: a team that’s working for equity in: education, economics, criminal justice, housing, land use, and transportation.
  • 1000 Mothers to Prevent Violence: a support group for families who have been victims of violence is having a Mourning Mother’s Walk at the San Leandro Marina on May 5, 2012!
  • Oakland’s Kids First: an organization that develops leadership opportunities for teens in order to help them graduate with a back pocket of skills..
  • The Khadafi Foundation for Non-Violence: an organization that provides support for victims

    Oakland's Measure Y Outreach Team

    of violence.

  • Youth from the Measure Y Outreach Team: who interact with the youth of Oakland in the areas most hardest hit by violence.
  • Berkeley Youth Alternatives: a community organization that helps children, teens and families through preventative interventions and support services to kids in the juvenile justice system. (I was an after-school tutor here when I as an undergrad..memories!)

And probably many others who I might have missed..

But let’s not forget one of our hosts The Ella Baker Center for Human Rights.. a grassroots organization whose mission is to give Oakland residents skills to work together to strengthen our community. One of their campaigns, Heal the Streets, trains youth to become community leaders and violence prevention advocates.

The resulting conversation was honest and eye-opening. One teen asked panel members how can she uplift a brother who had just been sentenced to life in prison for murder. Another young lady, whose father was shot in the head and cousin recently murdered, applauded the panelists for their efforts which inspired her. (After the conversation she immediately went to a representative from Kids First and asked to volunteer.)

So what?

At end of the discussion a young man, who took it upon himself to start a grassroots organization called “The Eagles Program” (sorry couldn’t find a link) where teens learn dance and acrobatics to keep them off the streets, expressed frustration about going to all of these talks/meetings on violence and nothing seems to come of it. The violence in Oakland still persists.

In response Ameena Matthews stated ..”The end result starts and ends with self”

Don’t worry about what the myriad of organizations are or are not doing. Or how our elected officials seem more concerned about getting re-elected and protecting their own instead of protecting those most in need.

Look at your actions and figure out what you can do to stop violence in your community based off of your own personal strengths.

I agree 100% and that goes for everyone.

Here is a couple of small things that you can do that can push us towards progress.

1. Some of these organizations need donations to support their work. Donate some money..but also donate your time.


“The Interrupters” will air on PBS’s Frontline on Feb. 14th (click for trailer). Check your local listings (I think it comes on at 10 pm Bay Area time) and watch this show.

Go a step further and invite your friends and some local youth to watch with you.


Side Note

KQED Celebrates Black History with an awesome website describing local heroes and a handy dandy Black History Month Resource Guide (click to download)! Make sure to check out KQED and PBS for awesome programs coming up in February.

As my intrepid friend Tiffany would say … Smooches!


Filed under Advocacy, Health, Oakland

Similarities between Occupy Oakland and Stand for Oakland

Zenophan Abraham‘s Zenni62.com youtube channel posted a video of Boots Riley confronting  supporters of Stand for Oakland.

Boots Riley has a point. I think Stand for Oakland needs to come to a General Assembly and bring a proposal in support of non-violent action at future protests/demonstrations.

Like all other government institutions Occupy Oakland is organized democratically..

There are some in #OO who believe in non-violent protest but they are out voted. If there is enough people to support a non-violent proposal, enough people to speak up in support and refute those against, a proposal would pass and the organization would have to follow. Right?

There are other ironic similarities between both movements.

Can’t escape violence

The man in the video can’t seem to separate the violence that occurs at Occupy protests from Occupy Oakland movement in general. However, the anti #OO movement isn’t immune to the problems inherent to Occupy Oakland either. During the Oakland City Council Meeting last night, someone testified that Occupy Oakland was being threatened with violence by some who are against #oo, and showed a flyer that said “Kill the Occupiers”. Can we attribute violent behavior of a few anti #OO individuals to the Stand for Oakland group as a whole? I would hope not.

Conflict is newsworthy

Stand for Oakland took the time out of their day to protest in front of City Hall, disrupt the peace of Frank Ogawa plaza to protest Occupy Oakland’s protest. They had news coverage.. the irony is that the only coverage worth mentioning was when there was conflict. When I turned on MSM ( main stream media ..Channel 5 news specifically) about the Stand for Oakland event, it wasn’t all positive.  It was “Shouting match at Frank Ogawa plaza” ..etc. Was that what Stand for Oakland was looking for in the coverage of the protest?  If the MSM can so easily turn something that was supposed to be positive into a negative about Stand for Oakland..imagine what they can turn an Occupy Oakland event into?

Everyone uses free speech

It seems both groups are using the same tactics to influence law makers:  protesting in downtown Oakland to attract media, in order to influence the city government to take action.

  • Stand for Oakland and the Business community doesn’t thing the City is doing enough to protect residents from #Occupy Oakland.
  • #Occupy Oakland doesn’t think the city is doing enough to protect residents from big Business and OPD and helping those that need help.

Neither one of the groups seem to want to cooperate within each others system to make change. Stand for Oakland says they agree with Occupy Oakland’s movement in general. GREAT: then go to General Assembly and participate. Make your complaints there and work on solutions there!

Occupy Oakland ..I have to hand it to you, you went to City Council last night to protest the proposal to protect the Port of Oakland by increasing police enforcement of laws against blocking streets and assembling without a permit. The proposal did not pass. But it wasn’t a win for Occupy Oakland (IMO).  It was a win for freedom of speech and the right to assemble.  The shouting match that went on between #OO and some Council members was horrible (IMO). The counsel listened to you quietly as you gave your speeches.. but when it was their turn some of you would not let them speak.

It not only bugs me (personally because I am a quiet person and I don’t like yelling)..but it gives MSM and those against #OO credibility in their arguments against you. What if a bunch of roudy Stand for Oakland folks went to General Assembly and shouted YOU down? Would you like that?

There is something to be said about catching more bees with honey.

My point in all of this is that it seems that both organizations are working to have a better Oakland. I think everyone needs to take to the time to listen to each other, respectfully, and figure out a way to work together to make it happen.  Do your research. Don’t just listen to the inflammatory language of MSM, or the Police, the Mayor, Occupy Oakland (either side essentially) and let it mislead you.  Don’t let the violent actions of a few distract people from the point of your protest.

Further comments I would like to make and rant about:

To Anti Occupy Oakland:

  •  Occupy Oakland isn’t made up of only young white out of towners!
  •  Occupy Oakland didn’t bum rush YMCA.
  •  Occupy Oakland isn’t all violent.
  •  City of Oakland: Street protest and broken windows and graffiti isn’t violence. Murders and robbery is. I wish the city and OPD would redirect their priorities on their own. People are dying in the streets and you CHOOSE to focus your efforts on Occupy? REALLY?

To Occupy Oakland

  •       PLEASE .. choose sustainable winnable actions. Taking over the Kaiser building was not one of them. Make a clear distinction between symbolic actions and real change.
  •       Random acts of vandalism may express anger but it is pointless. You love Oakland..you hate the blight that is found in other areas of the city..contributing to it does not help. I liked it when after the Nov. 2 protests groups of people cleaned up after the vandalism. Continue doing that. That would bring goodwill and will help separate yourself from the ‘violence’
  •       Be thorough in your research –  the City Council does not control OUSD  or give them funding. The State of California gives funding to the school districts. Go to Sacramento and protest there.  (THAT would be FUN!)

TO EVERYONE: I hate cigarettes..QUIT SMOKING!!! <— wait..am I yelling here? 😉


EDIT: Davey D just posted a an article about Black Bloc and ‘diversity of tactics’ Check it out:

Are Black Bloc and diversity of tactics hurting or helping the Occupy Movement?


Filed under Advocacy, City Council, Oakland

Is it politics or guns that we should be scared of?

In Gail Collin’s opinion article on the NY Times, she writes:

If Loughner had gone to the Safeway carrying a regular pistol, the kind most Americans think of when they think of the right to bear arms, Giffords would probably still have been shot and we would still be having that conversation about whether it was a sane idea to put her Congressional district in the cross hairs of a rifle on the Internet.

But we might not have lost a federal judge, a 76-year-old church volunteer, two elderly women, Giffords’s 30-year-old constituent services director and a 9-year-old girl who had recently been elected to the student council at her school and went to the event because she wanted to see how democracy worked.

Loughner’s gun, a 9-millimeter Glock, is extremely easy to fire over and over, and it can carry a 30-bullet clip. It is “not suited for hunting or personal protection,” said Paul Helmke, the president of the Brady Campaign. “What it’s good for is killing and injuring a lot of people quickly.”

There have been a lot of comments about the negative political atmosphere contributing to the violence that occurred in Arizona this past weekend. Blame as been pointing towards Sarah Palin’s cross hairs map. What concerns me is the ease with which individuals can buy and carry guns in public.

Gun rights activists say that guns don’t kill people, people kill people. People who are at risk of committing violent acts (convicted criminals, the diagnosed mentally unstable, batterers) should not be carrying guns.

There needs to be a federal law that allow people to have guns, but with limits. Congress let the ban of the sale of semi-automatic weapons expire in 2004. I really wish they would reinstate it.

I don’t like that that we have right to carry a gun that can hurt one person..but to have one that can kill innocent bystanders at the same time, seems really unnecessary.

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Filed under Politics