Stop the Violence is the message at two local parks in East Oakland. Community Engagement Coordinator Jennifer Argueta is the Director of Messengers 4 Change (a project of Oakland Unite), and manages these Friday night family events at Willie Wilkins Park located 1100 98th Avenue and Carter Gilmore Park located on 1390 66th Avenue.
These two parks were chosen because of the frequency of violence and drug activity in and around the neighboring areas. Residents take a stand against violence by bringing the entire family out for a free family fun night.
There are many things to enjoy. One of the more prevalent things that bring people together is food. There are barbecued hamburgers, hot links, hot dogs, potato salad, macaroni salad, nachos, chips, juice and water.
Soccer is the sport of choice at Willie Wilkins location. Wearing red and yellow team jerseys, boy and girls, African-American and Hispanic played a cheerful game until their hearts are content.
Mayor Jean Quan stopped by for a quick photo with these energetic athletes while they took a quick break. Dance contests feature the latest hip hop, old school, and Salsa music played by Igorbeatz, DJ host extraordinaire.
When asked why he volunteers his services his response was simple: “I love the kids.”
Raffles can earn you Target, McDonald’s and Wal-Mart gift cards with$15-$25 dollar balances. Also raffled is a family 6-pack of tickets to the Oakland Zoo. You can find face-painting, potato-sack races for adults and children, and lots of giveaways for the entire community to enjoy every Friday, July 11 –August 15 from 6 p.m. to 9p.m. The events are funded by Measure Y.
Not only does Messengers 4 Change stop violence by bringing neighborhoods together, it also employees 25 at-risk youth who help organize and coordinate the Friday Summer Nights events.
There are also a few other non-profits that show up at these events to help make this community a better place. One of them is CAL-PEP (California Prostitutes Education Project) which offers STD screenings and HIV testing on site, as well as family planning counseling at their Mobile Clinic. Some may wonder why these services are offered. Five zip codes in Alameda County have the highest STD rates in the state. CAL-PEP is available to host an onsite family education session or you can schedule a meeting in the privacy of your own home. The mobile clinic has several educational hand-outs and offers a wide range of services free of charge to the public. Drop-ins are welcomed. I noticed a few young boys stopping by to be tested for STDs.
Oakland is a great place to be on a Friday Summer Night.