Oakland community leaders are calling for peace after the violent 2021

OAKLAND, CA (CROWN) – Religious leaders gathered at Martin Luther King Jr. Day in Oakland to reflect on the city’s recent years of violence and remember King as a symbol of peace.

Priests, poets, and grassroots community leaders spoke out on the steps of Oakland City Church on MacArthur Boulevard at an event called “Hope In The Hour Of Homicide.”

Oakland had 134 homicides in 2021, but the number of residents left with scars in the wake of the violence is far higher, said Brenda Grisham, executive director of the Christopher L. Jones Foundation.

“Last year we lost 134 lives on the streets of Oakland. It causes a thousand people to be injured in our city,” said Brenda Grisham, whose son, Christopher Jones, was murdered 12 years ago.

Pastor Harry Williams asked, “What would King have said if he were still alive in 2022? This man gave his life to stand up to violence. What would he say about the violence that shook cities like Oakland?

“The cause he lived for is still a cause. The dream he lived for is still a dream, ”Williams said.

Two of the event’s speakers said they grew up surrounded by a cycle of violence in Oakland. They escaped through higher education, athletics and community service.

Brandon Rosenity, a community organizer for AYPAL, was shot three times in 2016. He was lying in a hospital bed when he realized, “I had two options. Retaliation on the street or getting a college degree.” Rosenity chose the latter route and he graduated from the University of California Santa Cruz.

“To prevent violence, it starts with healing our caps, normalizing connections and compassion,” Rosenity said.

“We have a saying that we say in the streets, someone died here and we have to be careful. Marth Luther King had a dream of peace in the streets, he did not want us to kill each other,” said Daryle Allums.

Allums founded Oakland Frontline Healers because he realized that not enough was being done to help victims of crime, especially youth. He organizes community members to get resources into neighborhoods where there are none.

“What really helped save my life was basketball. That ball saved my life,” Allums said.

Esker-D Ligon, a practicing nurse in mental health, said violence is a health problem in the local community. “Wounded people hurt people,” she said.

Ligon provides counseling to people who live on the streets, sit down and talk to people that others have given up. Many people who struggle and are desperate were traumatized at some point in their lives.

“When you see your best friend being shot in front of you, a lot of people deal with PTSD,” Ligon said.

She read a quote from King: “Rebellion is the language of the unheard.”

Ligon added, “PTSD is a rebellion in someone’s mind that prevents them from having a sense of well-being.”

“Our children have to bury us, not the other way around. The impact is much greater than the statistics say. What alternatives do we offer so that people do not resort to violence for how they feel? When resources are given in local communities, violence can go down, Said Ligon.

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