Public health approach to eradicating violence
More than 200 enthusiastic members of the Mission community participated in a collective of local organizations working to “build the plan to address violence epidemic in our community,” on Jan. 31.
The initiative, The Mission Peace Collaborative, was created last fall in response to five shootings that occurred in a six-week period, killing four Latino youths.
“We’re becoming immune … it’s unacceptable,” said Roberto Hernandez, community activist and organizer of the event at Everett Middle School. “Together we can win this.”
According to Hernandez, some 13 grassroots Mission-based organizations serving Latino youth have gradually lost funding in the past few years.
Organizations backing the initiative include Latin Zone Productions, Community Response Network, CARECEN, Mission Beacon, Homey’s, Chalk, Mission Graduates, MNC Precita Center and Mission Girls, Arriba Juntos, PODER, Good Samaritan, Horizons Unlimited and Goodwill Industries.
The gathering commenced with a native sage smudging ceremony led by Valerie Tulier, director of Mission Beacon Community Center.
Various Mission-based political activists, directors of organizations historically connected to the Mission, and city officials figures were among the list of attendees. Participants of all backgrounds projected a promising feeling of solidarity during this initial phase of the planning process.
Hernandez opened the debate by commenting on how previous strategies to eradicate violence have failed.
“It’s unacceptable to see how the governor has spent 3.7 million dollars to put 30 names on a list,” he said, referring to the gang injunctions implemented in 2007, which effectively put a number of Mission-based individuals on probation.
Sheriff Ross Mirkarimi spoke about “how we should be more dynamic in our approach to creating alternative options.” Meanwhile, District 7 Supervisor David Campos, presented a pilot strategy that frames violence as a public health issue, that is “related to housing, recreational space, public education [and] economic opportunity.” Campos added, “This has yet to happen elsewhere.”
After breaking into an energetic “Chicano clap” round of applause, attendees split up into committees. Each committee was led by coordinators, who initiated debates about topics related to public health including: education, employment, economic development, religion, immigration, housing, recreation, culture and politics.
According to Hernandez, previous plans failed in large part due to lack of political interest. Hernandez touched on the “Real Alternatives Program,” a program related to street culture during the ‘80s, the “Hope Plan” during Willie Brown’s tenure and the comprehensive plan proposed by Jim Queen during Gavin Newsom’s term.
Anecdotally, the organizers of the collaborative apologized for not including the youth committee in the printed program that was distributed to attendees. The youth, applauded by fellow collaborative participants, took advantage of the opportunity to express their concern for the increasing number of liquor stores in the neighborhood, and for violence surfacing through the media.
The Mission Peace Collaborative invites all members of the community to come and participate in the planning process to eradicate violence in the Mission.
“With the help of all of the organizations of the community, we will find a long-term strategy,” said Campos.“It’s important to collaborate to prevent acts of violence before they occur, and to have a pro-active attitude towards preventing youth from getting into problems.”
Hernandez agreed, saying, “Each one of you will be part of a 5-year-planning process.”
The next Mission Peace Collaborative meeting will take place on Feb. 28, from 6 p.m. to 8 p.m. at Everett Middle School, located at 450 Church St.
—Translation Gabriela Sierra Alonso