This sustainability project incorporates a primary goal of security through familiarity instead of enforced privacy. Bars on windows and guns in the home or car are manifestations of an un-Godly "might makes right" attitude.
"Peace through strength" is marketing spin. The only way to peace, is through peace. Violence begets violence. Simple concept: hard practice.
The ex-drug lord shooting down the street, the loud gatherings of people until all hours, the young men who aren't from our street coming over and being aggressive, inspired George to organize a safety meeting. North Oakland has seen quite a few "Disaster Preparedness" house meetings (at which there will be 15 white people and 2 non-whites) since the Indian Ocean tsunami, but this was the first safety meeting I've known of since moving here.
Xena recalls encouraging George to enroll the African American men on the street, making sure the meeting felt like a collaboration instead of yet another expression of the "white man's burden." He did; there were a few different people who had ownership of the idea. So that was great.
We had 8 or 10 people show up, including my neighbor the venerable Mr. Jessie Posey. He's a character, and savvy. A dad named Harry was there, too. I'd seen so little parental involvement with the youth street culture over the last 7 months, I wasn't prepared to hear the love and concern, mixed with the real-world wisdom, that I heard from everyone. Why is it that it's only people from my house going out at 1 am and telling the kids it's time to shut down the party and go inside? Unknown, but apparently the other parents appreciate it.
We all agreed we want the street to be safe for our kids. We decided to have street functions such as BBQs and block parties, as well as to find jobs in and around the street for these kids to do. We also agreed that the police have a role to play, one that does not include arresting youth from our street, but does include keeping drug dealers and instigators out of our neighborhood.
We talked about that a little bit, and the primary thought there was that if everyone everywhere worked to keep criminals out, then you're not shuffling the problem off to someone else. Not sure how to support that right now. Maybe that's someone else's job.
The youth were intensely curious about what we adults talked about. They stopped George on the street and got the story. I think he managed to present it in a "We're figuring out how to look after you" light, because he reported to me that the kids are surprised that the grown-ups care.
One young man came up to me, "I want in on the program!" referring to the jobs we're going to uncover. These kids are hungry for some leadership. I'd assumed there wasn't any. Instead, it seems as though the leadership on our street is simply a bit slow to start moving.