On a bright morning at the end of June, Oakland’s Violence Prevention Coalition and partnering organizations gathered community members and leaders to discuss ways of dealing with the plague of gun violence.
The gathering at Laney College hosted over 100 people with a panel and breakout sessions through the morning and afternoon, including Oakland rapper Kamaiyah, Founder of Homies Empowerment Cesar Cruz, Community Leader Andriah Payton, Community Activist Antoine Towers, and Founder of Global Communications & Education Almaz Yihdego. The panel was facilitated by Pastor Zachary Carey, Founder of Soldiers Against Violence Everywhere (SAFE).
Amid significant budget cuts to the city’s Department of Violence Prevention, the gathering highlighted the importance of community efforts to curb violence and promote safety in Oakland.
The summit included a presentation by Erica Rice of Brady, a national nonprofit seeking to reduce deaths from gun violence (formerly named The Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence).
Rice offered a startling statistic on the role of gun dealers in the rising numbers of deaths due to gun violence: “Ninety percent of crime guns used for violent crimes come from 5% of gun dealers,” based on the guns found at or near crime scenes. “The vast majority of gun dealers are responsible and follow the law, but there is a small subset that are negligent and irresponsible and those are the firearms that find their way to communities like ours and into the hands of people that cause the violence,” she added.
Brady’s research in Oakland also shows Black residents make up only a quarter of the city’s population, but experience more than half of the city’s homicides. A startling three out of four residents killed in Oakland are Black, according to research from Brady.
Gun violence and other types of violence have increased in Oakland, compared to last year. While homicides are down 13% compared to 2022, property crime, burglaries, and vehicle thefts have increased anywhere from 28 to 50%, according to ABC7 News.
In addition to the opening presentation, six community activists discussed causes of violence and approaches to reduce it.
Cesar Cruz, the founder of Homies Empowerment and prior chair of Oakland Violence Prevention Council, criticized the economics of violence in Oakland and in the U.S.
“It is profitable to have violence in America,” he said, citing the large number of funeral businesses and storefront churches in Oakland. “Violence is profitable to news agencies…whose reporters are dependent on stories about violence and it is profitable to nonprofits, and not all nonprofits are helping the community,” he added. Cruz also noted that women and children being trafficked everyday is another form of violence.
The Violence Prevention Coalition partnering organizations included Brady, Community Partners, Trybe, Adamika Village, Oakland Black Officers Association (O.B.O.A.), Building Opportunities for Self Sufficiency (B.O.S.S.), and Hoover-Foster Resident Action Council.