Oakland leaders call on Alameda County to declare gun violence a public health emergency




Black and Brown community leaders call on Alameda County to officially declare gun violence a public health emergency and commit $ 100 million in federal pandemic relief funds to help communities directly affected by gun violence .

“Emergency state!” a crowd of about three dozen locals and activists chanted repeatedly at the Lake Merritt Amphitheater Thursday morning. Leaders in attendance represented local organizations such as LIVE FREE, Roots Community Health Center, Fund Peace, Faith In Action East Bay, and Californians for Safety and Justice.

Last Saturday, Lake Merritt was the site of the sixth mass shooting in Oakland so far this year, according to the Bay Area News Group, which used the definition of four or more gunshot victims. A gunman killed 22-year-old Dashawn Rhodes in a crowd of thousands during a June 17 celebration just before 6:30 p.m. Saturday. Seven other people were injured. Police have yet to arrest the shooters responsible.

“We are in Armageddon. My city is on fire, ”said Mistah FAB, triple platinum artist and songwriter and founder of Dope Era Apparel.

Speakers demanded that Alameda County officials declare gun violence as a state of emergency, just as they have done with the coronavirus and HIV / AIDS.

Dr Noha M. Aboelata, CEO of the Roots Community Health Center, which provides medical and behavioral care and other services to people affected by systemic inequalities and poverty, said gun violence does not only affect its victims immediate, but generations of people who must carry the trauma with them. “Things are getting worse with no end in sight,” she said.

Dr Noha Aboelata, Founder and CEO, Roots Community Health Center

The groups are asking the county to invest nearly $ 100 million of the $ 324 million in pandemic relief funds allocated to Alameda County from the US federal bailout for black and brown communities. Specifically, they want funding to support the “Black Community Recovery Plan” created by the African American Response Circle, a group formed to address the disproportionate impact of the pandemic on people of color. Their plan calls for investing in housing, economic self-reliance, and spiritual and physical health in communities affected by gun violence.

This includes providing 500 individuals or families with rent assistance of $ 1,000 each month for one year, up to $ 50,000 for 250 individuals or families for down payments on properties, and $ 8 million to develop. more affordable housing. The biggest investment would be $ 15.75 million to expand the Oakland Universal Basic Income pilot project to give $ 750 per month to 1,000 families in Oakland and 750 families in Hayward and unincorporated areas in Alameda County Corporation.

In a letter to the Alameda County Board of Supervisors dated June 7, Greg Hodge of the Brotherhood of Elders Network, an intergenerational network of men of African descent who support black boys and young men, and the group that has created the African American Response Circle. said his stimulus package corrects many of the structural inequalities highlighted during the pandemic.

The group says the county has yet to respond to their letter with these requests.

“How come we have to beg Alameda County to use the hundreds of millions of dollars that have been set aside for the healing of our community as if they need the money but the locals don’t. from Alameda County? Said Reverend Michael McBride, senior pastor of the Way Christian Center in West Berkeley.

Organizer and Pastor Michael McBride addresses the crowd at the press conference on the public health crisis at Lake Merritt.

The black community recovery plan shares some similarities with President Joe Biden’s new strategy to tackle gun violence nationwide, such as investing in community violence interventions and expanding programs that have been shown to work. reduced crime. Nationwide homicides increased 24% in the first quarter of 2021 compared to the same period in 2020, according to senior White House officials.

In Oakland, shootings causing injuries and deaths are up 75% from a year ago, according to the Oakland Police Department. As The Oaklandside previously reported, the shootings were almost as deadly as COVID-19 last year.

But the plan presented by local leaders of color on Thursday differs from that of Biden when it comes to the role of the police in repairing the damage done to black and brown communities. Biden’s plan gives the police more money while the black community recovery plan would not give the police department any additional funding for more community-based efforts.

As the groups held their press conference in Lake Merritt, city council was debating how much to spend on the Oakland Police Department in the city’s next biennial budget cycle. Mayor Libby Schaaf and some council members support increasing the police budget, while council chairman Nikki Bas and others want to cut police funding to invest in violence prevention and non-violent solutions. policewomen.

Tinisch Hollins, executive director of Californians for Safety and Justice, said that because the violence and unresolved trauma among black Americans “is literally killing our people,” the United States can no longer simply rely on incarceration and police to deter crime.

“People don’t get it: the police don’t prevent crime, they respond to crime,” she said, adding that it is essential to shut down the systems that cause people to resort to violent crime. . “Unless we respond in a way that allows us to give the resources directly to the people who relate to the people on the ground, this will continue. “

Oakland artist Mistah FAB addresses the crowd at the press conference on the public health crisis at Lake Merritt.

Local artist Mistah FAB said most people don’t understand the childhood trauma of violence that people carry into adulthood.

“In our communities, where we come from, we are a little hesitant to admit that we even have these problems. We don’t admit that we have mental health issues, ”he said. “We don’t agree that losing 10 friends in a year can cause traumatic syndromes in your state of mind.”

Activists want to put federal money into the hands of those in the community who could start tackling the underlying issues before they become bigger issues. Much like it did with COVID-19, Alameda County declaring an emergency would remove paperwork so the money could be released more quickly. Philadelphia adopted a similar emergency declaration on gun violence, but the mayor refused to sign the order.

The Alameda County Health Care Services Agency is the department that writes up health emergencies which are then approved by the Alameda County Board of Supervisors. In a statement to The Oaklandside, Jerri Applegate Randrup, spokesperson for the health agency, thanked community leaders for calling attention “to this issue of life and death.”

Applegate Randrup said many programs and services offered by the county health department focus on building resilience and well-being, including behavioral health services, home visits by health nurses public, the Supplemental Nutrition for Women, Infants and Children (WIC) program, paternity programs, as well as youth programs that promote safety, health and belonging in school.

“As with other complex health issues, there is more work to be done if we want all residents to lead safe and healthy lives,” Applegate Randrup said. “We look forward to partnering with local leaders, community organizations and residents to identify and address the main drivers of violence in our communities. ”

Daryle Allums of Adamika Village and Oakland Frontline Healers addresses the crowd at the press conference on Thursday, June 24, 2021.

Meanwhile, California State Attorney General Rob Bonta, who represented Oakland in the California State Assembly ahead of his new role, released a statement on Thursday calling for implementation across the board. State programs such as Operation Peacekeeper and Operation Ceasefire that have helped reduce gun violence in communities like Stockton by funding community resources in high crime areas.

“Community-based strategies, like those implemented in Stockton, prevent gun violence by providing people with essential support and resources up front, before a tragedy occurs,” Bonta said.

For those who gathered at Lake Merritt on Thursday morning, tackling the outbreak of gun violence means getting to the roots of the problem before it is allowed to spread further. And the money to fund these efforts cannot come fast enough.

“Thoughts and prayers are great, but we need the resources,” Hodge said. “We are not asking. We are demanding.


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