It was perfect, clear weather for a march in East Palo Alto on Sunday, October 14. Many city residents came out to protest the recent shootings that happened on Azalia Drive and on Terra Villa Ave. a week before when two young men,Chris Baker, 21, and Lonnie Brown, 24, lost their lives in separate shooting incidents.
During the march, protesters chanted “No more drugs, no more violence.” They indicated that they were tired of seeing their city being torn apart by criminal behavior. The marchers assembled in the Home Depot parking lot in East Palo Alto around 1:45 p.m. and with a police escort, they proceeded to Jack Farrell Park. Some, who attended the march, felt there was a low turnout of young males for whom violence is a crucial issue, because of the San Francisco 49ers game which was televised at the same time as the march.
When the marchers arrived at the rally in the park, they heard various speakers address the crowd about issues affecting the community. Not only did leaders like, Mayor Laura Martinez and the Interim City Manager, Ron Davis, speak to the group, but local ministers, grandmothers, city activists, and community members who lost close friends to gun violence also shared what was on their minds as well.
Martinez, who was raised in East Palo Alto, told the crowd, “In East Palo Alto we want families to feel safe….Violence prevention is important to me and I know that together we can overcome our challenges.”
It seemed apparent from the speeches and discussions in the park that both the march and rally reflected the community's search for solutions and the expressed hope that the day’s events would deter future criminal activity from happening.
During the rally, unemployment among East Palo Alto’s younger generation was described as a key factor in the city’s struggles against violence. In responding to this issue, Martinez shared information about an upcoming job fair for formerly incarcerated job ready applicants. She said that the job fair would take place November 8 from 9 a.m. to noon at 555 Marshall Street in Redwood City. Ikea, Mi Pueblo, Recology and Goodwill are expected to be among some of the employers that will be there.
Bob Hoover, a long time community activist, addressed the crowd about the violence he’s witnessed in East Palo Alto for so many years. Hoover mentioned a recent trip he took to Los Angeles with Martinez and Davis to look at a youth program called Homeboys Industries. He said that Homeboys Industries is a good model for a new youth program in East Palo Alto. “We need something [that is ] consistent, long term, and speak[s] …directly to the young people involved.”
One of the event’s organizers, Ebonni Black, talked about her experiences losing dear friends to violence. She told the crowd, “I don’t think there is anything that serious where you would have to take somebody's life. That is God’s job.”
Black, who grew up in East Palo Alto, said that she finds it necessary to take an active role in the community. She currently runs a family reading time session at the East Palo Alto Library every Saturday from 10:30 a.m. to 11:30 a.m.
In a private interview, Black stressed the importance of having a march against violence and described the rally as “sort of breaking the ice” for people to come out and show their opposition to violence and their support for peace in the city. “ We want to let the families of the victim’s know we are taking this seriously,”she said.
Black lost a good friend, Charles Perry, in February to domestic violence. She described him as a warm spirit whose death served as motivation for her to be part of the solution.
Many families chowed down on fries, hot dogs, and tacos sold from a food truck run by A Salma K Indo European Cuisine. Dr. Fasi Khurram took orders from the truck and gave out free samples of the company's European style burritos. Khurram said that the event 's organizer Morian Walker contacted several local food companies about the rally.
The author of this article, Jamilla Rages, can be contacted by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
For background information on this article, see EPA Today article: