Day of Action at 1301 Clay Street in Oakland Friday, February 22nd at 11 am, will bring together people who want to have weapons of mass destruction, guns taken off the streets. The many people whose lives have been taken, damaged and effected by the many shootings are tragedies we read about daily in the newspaper. It becomes real when you have first hand experience as I did ten years ago at Glad Tidings Babtist Church. But passing Glad Tidings Babtist Church yesterday, on the border of Berkeley and Oakland, I see the same scenario that I witnessed ten years ago. Yesterday, like then, there is the long line of dignitaries standing at the door as the white casket is taken in. Inside I know, there is a family that will never recover from their loss.
Ten years ago, twin 22 year old brothers Albade and Obadiah Taylor in twin white caskets were at the front of the church as we entered. We had come in together, the co workers of Albade, shocked by the brothers having been shot by 18 bullets. At least 300 people gathered, and all were there for the same reason, to absorb the shock and sadness of the loss of these young lives. Obadiah had called for help from his brother because of a car breakdown. Soon after he came to the aid of his brother, they were both killed. Together in their death as they had been in life from the moment they were born it was reported.
In the front of the church in purple robes, the choir sang and rocked side to side slowly and quietly at first. "Love is what we're grateful for, thank you Lord.." the same phrase used over and over again as the increase in volume and expression and joy. At this point, the dignitaries and family 50-60 strong came down the aisle. "Thank you, Lord, Thank you, Jesus" was expressed repeatedly by the choir and the congregation who stood for the dignitaries. Once seated, they joined into the expressions of the choir, clapping and chanting "Thank you, Lord." We, in our row, are absorbed in the experience that carries us along as the expressions expand and reach a crescendo. We are holding on even without the understanding of the expressions of joy.
A series of ministers speak and a representative of the Alameda Race Violence Task Force speaks. She is saying that young black men are at a premium, that 68% will have an encounter with the law, and they are three times more likely to be killed before reaching adulthood. An Uncle from Mississippi, the father who was most absent who expressed his regret saying "I thought I had time," spoke from the front of the church. And the mother came to the front of the church and sang from the bottom of her soul to the top of the mountains her gratitude for life filling every inch of this enormous church with her huge expression.
The Bishop then spoke of how Moses was a male child who survived, but that killing male children was the best way to make extinct a group, and that that was the risk of the Afro American community. That the young men were being killed, killing each other and being put in jail. He made a wringing gesture with his hands in describing eliminating a race. "Time to wake up," he said, and recognize that " the black people in the drug wars were not the end users. They don't own the planes that bring the materials into the country; they don't own the boats that bring in the drugs; they don't own the store houses where the drugs are kept. They don't own the drugs." Such an obvious point changed the feeling of the church with a murmur expressed throughout the church in acknowledgement of the profundity of his comment.
That was over ten years ago, and what has changed I wondered seeing the same scene at the Glad Tidings Babtist church yesterday. Little, really is the answer. Shootings were an unusual circumstance ten years ago, but a daily report of shootings is so common today as to not sound the alarm it should. The citizens of Oakland take measures every day to try to address the shootings. Incarceration of the shooters has not put a dent in the activity which is measured by the number of killings per year with no clear direction to take to stop the killing. The Oakland police over being evaluated as part of the problem.
The change that needs to happen is to look at the root cause. We need to identify the young people who are picking up the guns find another entry into their manhood. The young people who are short of education or training who are left to shift for themselves are not just a problem to themselves, they are our problem. Support of mothers and their children so they don't have to leave them at home unattended after school is a demand that needs to be met by society. Jobs, apprentices, mentoring and showing young people how to function in the world, like Van Jones' Green Jobs has shown that a difference can be made. Ella Baker Center works every day to help young people recognize the choices they have that work better for them than to take the gun as a means to take power in their lives.
But bottom line, get the guns out of the hands of young people. Get the guns registered, have accountability be part of the ownership of the gun. That is the only real change that will stop the dynamic tsunami that results in the shootings of young people by young people, and the collateral damage of crime to the citizens in their homes and on the streets. Gun Control and making guns inaccessible and restricted to registered owners who apply and qualify for gun use, with responsibility for the use of the gun. They need to qualify just like people who drive cars.
A real change that has happened since the shooting of Al and Ob Taylor is their mom has started the Million Moms against Violence. She and other mothers and family members have gone to Washington to ask for Gun Control. One Million Mothers 4 Gun Control is another group that has formed to take the stand that guns need to be governed, must be controlled for another mother not to have to endure the loss they have. Many believe that we are all responsible, and we must direct our actions to demand gun control. This Friday February 22nd at 11 am, a demand for action will be directed toward the congress and the President. It is time to take the matter personally and vote with their feet by showing up on this matter that touches us all.
Day of Action, 130l Clay Street-Oakland. February 22nd 11 am.