Turn a Tragic Shooting into a Peaceful Future for Oakland

Yesterday there were three separate violent shootings in Oakland in less than 12 hours:

  • The first incident occurred around 10:30am near the Fruitvale Bart station and created a three-car collision accident.  Luckily no one was injured.  
  • Later on in the afternoon at about 4:00pm, a youth was shot in his leg on his way to practice. 
  • And shortly after 8:00pm, another male teenager was hospitalized for critical gunshot wounds. 

These types of news headlines are all too familiar for communities in East and West Oakland.  They are the daily realities of what it means to grow up black, brown and male in Oakland. 

It’s a way of life that few of us could comprehend, let alone live in.  And every now and again, there are events that happen or incidents that we encounter that shake us to our core and remind us that entire communities live like this every day. 

Remembering Kiante Campbell

Today marks the one-month anniversary of the fatal shooting of 18-year old Kiante Campbell at Oakland’s First Friday Art Murmur. 

Like many young people around Oakland, Kiante and his friends were out on a Friday night, looking for a place to hang out and have some fun.  And like so many other youth in Oakland, Kiante and his friends made their way out to downtown Oakland, because it was one place where young people could just kick it and have a good time.

That night, Kiante become another victim of violent crime in our city. 

For some of the other young people who were with Kiante that night, this was another traumatic killing of a friend they witnessed, another person to mourn, another person to say goodbye to and just another day of growing up in Oakland.

Something that Happens in "Other" Neighborhoods

For other Art Murmur goers, this was the first time they had ever been face-to-face with a deadly shooting. 

Many people were alarmed to experience and hear about the shooting in Uptown, because it’s something that is supposed to happen in other neighborhoods – not something that happens in Uptown/Downtown. 

That weekend, the Oakland community responded to Kiante’s death and the shooting in various ways. 

Some were angry and upset to feel that their safe Art Murmur had been violated by violence that was only supposed to happen in “those neighborhoods,” a.k.a. poor black and brown neighborhoods. 

Others were frustrated to see this particular shooting receive so much media coverage simply because it happened in Uptown, even though this was a regular occurrence in other communities.

As short-sighted as both of these responses are, they are both valid.

We Reap What We Sow

Kiante Campbell’s death is a clear indication that violence is not something that we can push out to the fringes of our city and expect to stay there.  We cannot ignore the struggles of entire communities and pretend that they are invisible. 

Violence permeates throughout the Town and throughout our culture.  We cannot raise our young people in a culture that sows seeds of violence in their neighborhoods and then be surprised when the roots begin to pop up in our streets. 

And we cannot be so ignorant as to believe that yanking at the weeds of violence by implementing half-fast and ineffective policies – like the gang injunctions, curfews, and sharp shooter – is going to get at the root causes of the problem. 

An Opportunity for New Allies

On the other side, it is exactly because this horrible shooting happened at Art Murmur in Uptown Oakland, that we must be vocal about the need to truly take on the issue of public safety in our Town, so that it stops the bleeding of black and brown blood from our young people into the streets. 

Because people who thought they were safe in their condos now feel violated and angered that a shooting could happen in downtown Oakland, that is exactly why we need to reach out to them and get them involved in the fight to save the lives of our youth and stop the violence. 

We All Have a Stake in Ending Violence

In an instant, Kiante Campbell’s death illuminated issues that were new to some of us and old for the rest of us, all at once.  

In an instant, we saw that the outcry for a safe place for youth to hang out and spend their time was more important than it’s ever been. 

We saw that the issue of gun control is more than just background checks.  In Oakland, gun control means stopping the flow of illegal guns into our communities. 

It means recognizing that our young people are living under the trauma of oppression, inequities and neglect, and that all these things and more impact their mental health. 

We watched as some of our friends who found themselves in the crossfire of bullets that night struggled to make sense of the night’s events, and realized that young people who experience that type of trauma and violence every day don’t have access to the resources to process and heal from violent incidents.

And more than that, we saw that the need to address violence in Oakland is urgent and real.  There are no quick fixes to a problem that is so deeply imbedded in our society and psyche like violence. 

Only through the commitment of deep partnerships with community, city leadership and law enforcement can we begin to take on the epidemic in Oakland.  Until those three things come together in a real and authentic way, anything other than that is just adding hurt to damage.

Be a Part of the Solution for Oakland

Tonight, United Roots and other organizations will be leading a Solutions Salon from 4:00-5:30pm at the New Parkway Theatre at 24th Street and Broadway, to start organizing the community towards real solutions for addressing violence in Oakland.

There are amazing organizations in Oakland working with youth and families to build a safe and strong Town for everyone.  Please reach out to groups like Urban Peace Movement, United Roots, and the Khadafy Foundation to see how you can get involved.