About every other month I write a column for the Religion Corner section of the Piedmont Post. This is my most recent submission:
On Thursday evening May 16 our church hosted the 23rd Oakland Ceasefire Call-in. At these events young men who have been identified by law enforcement as being potential participants in acts of gun violence are invited to sit at the table with clergy, police, health professionals and other community leaders and receive both an invitation and a warning. The invitation is to put down their guns and come back into the community. They are offered mentoring, job training, recovery programs and educational opportunities. The warning is that if they choose to reject the services offered and continue on the path they are at risk of either arrest or great personal harm. Since the call-ins began in 2012 almost 350 young men, all affiliated with gangs, cliques and other groups known to engage in gun violence, have come to the table. After the meetings less than 20% of them have had subsequent interactions with law enforcement. Underlying all that the participants heard on Thursday evening were the words of one of the service providers, “Young brothers, you were not put on this earth to die young.”
In April the Giffords Law Center published a report titled “A Case Study in Hope: Lessons From Oakland’s Remarkable Reduction in Gun Violence.” Authored by Mike McLively, a Senior Attorney at the Giffords Center, the report detailed the ways in which Oakland’s implementation of the Ceasefire philosophy led to a 50% reduction in its rate of homicides with its 2018 total being the lowest in two decades. Researcher Anthony Braga noted that there were also significant decreases in non fatal shootings, from 566 in in 2012 to 277 in 2018 and that other forms of gun violence, the use of firearms in robberies for example, were down by 70% since 2013.
There are five key components to violence prevention strategies like Ceasefire:
- Analysis of violence and trends. Research showed that there were only 400 individuals at high risk of engaging in gun violence at any given time.
- Respectful, in-person communications. The call-ins are a leading example of this kind of communication.
- Relationship-Based social services. The services and programs offered at the call-ins embrace this philosophy.
- Narrowly focused law enforcement actions. Arrests are made but the understanding is that we cannot arrest our way out of the gun violence problem.
- Partnership-based performance management. There needs to be a commitment by the city to ongoing research, evaluation and best practices.
As a clergy participant in the Ceasefire effort I would also note that Ceasefire expresses some important theological beliefs. Among them:
- We are all created in the image of God and are deserving of profound respect.
- We are all ultimately accountable to a higher power for the way we live our lives.
- We have the ability to transcend a “me” centered existence and live a “we” centered one.
- We have a divinely given drive to wish for our children a life free from fear and full of peace.
- We can gain wisdom from failure, set-back and sorrow.
Let us stay on the path of peace.
Pastor Jim Hopkins
Lakeshore Avenue Baptist Church
Prayers of the Congregation
The family of friends of Marcie Giarizzo as they mourn her death earlier this year (Marcie was a Minister in Training in at LABC in the 1990s. She was living on the east coast.); The family and friends of Jim Robinson as they mourn his death; Sydney Webster for Gigi (health) and for herself as she preaches at Trinity Baptist Church of San Mateo as the candidate to be their pastor; Thanksgiving that LCC student Myles is home from the hospital and responding well to treatment; Dale Edmondson for Eric, Julianne, Mia and family; All who are traveling, Julio Cash for his family; Rita Jennings (health); Tina Dright (health); the homeless members of our community; Robert Wilkins as he preaches for us this Sunday; Peggy Rogers-Tamayo for her family; Mary Karne for her family; Skip Keller for his mother-in-law, Esther, as she prepares to move from Florida to California; Dave Robinson for his parents (health); Larry Sims for his family; Margaret Alexander for her family; Kay Baxter for Jamie; Dayle Scott for his brother Don (hospice care) and family; Geetha Thaker (health); Ben Bartlett and family on his receipt of a PhD from University of California’s Department of Political Science
The City of Oakland has re-opened the application process for the Police Commission. This commission is an important expression of procedural justice. Members of the LABC community would bring an important perspective to this work.