The recent events in Ferguson, Cleveland and New York – the heartbreaking loss of Michael Brown, Eric Garner, and Tamir Rice, three unarmed black males (two of whom were children, Rice just 12 years old), at the hands of police officers and the strong displays of public outrage that have followed – resonate deeply with us here in Oakland.

As a community that has also suffered great loss, we stand with these cities in mourning, in solidarity, and in an effort to organize for change. In the face of these unspeakable injustices, we are called on to find meaning and, despite how difficult it may be, a way forward.

The frequency with which unarmed African American males are being killed by police officers around the country is outrageous and unacceptable.

Every time a person of color is unjustly profiled or, even worse, killed at the hands of law enforcement a not-so-subtle message is sent to the world that some lives matter more than others. That message is that some lives are valuable and deserving of protection and that other lives, the lives of black and brown boys and men, in particular, are expendable. That message is a threat to the health and safety of us all.

Michael Brown’s father said, “I do not want my son’s death to be in vain. I want it to lead to incredible change, positive change, change that makes the St. Louis region better for everyone.”

We need to make sure that this kind of change happens for St. Louis, for places like Detroit, Chicago, and Oakland, and, for all the young men and women of color who deserve a future free from threats of violence from the police or anyone else.

That is what happens in a healthy community. Every man, woman and child should be treated with dignity and respect. We cannot allow the institutions and systems that make up the connective tissue of our society to continue to dehumanize people of color, especially our boys and men.

Until we get real, and start implementing systemic social change and deep healing, we will continue to see this cycle repeat itself again and again.

We have to stop pretending that race and class don’t matter. We have to deal with the root causes of the racial and economic inequalities that plague our society. And, we have to create opportunities to heal ourselves and our communities from the horrific losses that we have endured.

To do so, we have to roll up our sleeves and be uncompromising for justice – both for and with our young people so that they know they matter.

This work can begin today. If you’re an adult, talk to a young person about how they are feeling about what’s been happening both locally and in cities across the country. If you’re a young person, talk to your peers. And, really listen. It’s only with open hearts, minds and ears that we can begin to heal and to map our way forward.

We will be in touch soon with more details on how we plan to continue this conversation as part of our work to create a thriving East Oakland. In the meantime, be well.

Signed,

East Oakland Building Healthy Communities Leadership:

Nicole Lee, Urban Peace Movement, Interim Chair – Peace Promotion
Noha Aboelata, Roots Community Health Center, Incoming Co-Chair – Health Access
Wendy Calimag, Girls Inc. of Alameda County, Co-Chair – Youth Work
Patricia Contreras Flores, East Bay Alliance for a Sustainable Economy, Co-Chair – Economic Opportunity
Sequoia Hall, Co-Chair – Economic Opportunity
Nehanda Imara, Communities for a Better Environment, Chair – Land Use
Sikander Iqbal, Youth Uprising, Co-Chair – Youth Work
Laura Lopez, Street Level Health Project, Outgoing Co-Chair – Health Access
Bernadette Tatom, Chair – Resident Engagement & Leadership Team

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