By Pablo Venturino, Community Programs Coordinator and BAM brother
My fast started yesterday at 12:30 pm when my BAM (Be A Man) brother William passed it on to me. William gave me great advice and inspiration to engage in a process of internal and external reflection. During these 24 hours of not eating, I decided to reflect on the following peace pledge: “I pledge to be mindful of my relations and actions.” Even though we are starting a new process and campaign this year, I realized that everything is connected, and it is impossible for me to not reflect back on last year’s events. Last year was a very traumatic and difficult year for our school community, as we lost several young people to gun violence. In response to the inexplicable pain caused by those unjust losses, our school, led by the BAM young men and Real Ambitious Women (RAW) circles, stood up, organized a fasting relay campaign for 74 days, and led a march for peace of approximately 300 people around the Fruitvale area. Although we have thankfully not lost a student at Life Academy this year, we keep hearing about students from other schools in the district who have been shot and killed. Every day I go home praying that I am going to see everybody again the next day at school, and each time I hear the sad news of the loss of another student, I feel devastated, while at the same time, I know that I need to remain strong, peaceful, and positive because I have incredibly talented young people who trust in me and need my support.
I am reflecting on how incredibly proud and humbled I am by the BAM young men who decided to initiate a Second Season of Peace Building Campaign this year, and to connect with their RAW sisters, the Youth Leadership E-Team, and the Youth Action Team to keep building peace in Oakland. The campaign last year required a lot of sacrifices from many people, and the homicide rate still increased, so I was not certain if people would want to start the Season of Peace Building Campaign again this year. I am so moved that the youth had the commitment and dedication to carry this movement forward for a second year. The commitment and passion of the youth at Life Academy, and their contagious energy when they talk about their goals, objectives, and dreams, motivates me every day and gives me great hope for our future.
During this fast, I am reflecting about relationships and actions, and I can’t stop thinking about the power of all the connections that are occurring among young people and adult allies in our school. And how these connections are now expanding to other campuses, and even to district and government offices. I feel like I am part of a network of relationships that is slowly emerging and that is guided by the principle of building community in order to build peace in Oakland. The struggle of the peace builders is huge and really goes against the odds, since violence has been normalized by the great majority of its victims, as we often hear people saying: “It’s whatever.” I am reflecting on how difficult it is to dismantle the systems of oppression that allow brilliant young people who grow up in the inner city to fall through the cracks of a broken society in a stage of advanced marginality.
My fasting is ending, but my commitment to this cause is stronger than ever before. The young people keep teaching me that we need to stand up and speak up for what is right and that if it is not us, then who? And that if it is not now, then when? As a friend frequently repeats “we are the ones we have been waiting for.” The Season of Peace Building teaches us that if we want peace we need to work for justice, and we need to intentionally and consciously build community. I end this fast reflecting on the importance of going out to our community, building relationships, understanding one another, and holding the decision-makers accountable if we want to foster change. In a place where we lack many things, and we are surrounded by violence and hopelessness, relationships are the most important thing that we have. The healthier and stronger these relationships become, the most likely we are going to make a lasting change!
Please comment on this post if you supported today’s faster or fasted in solidarity with our movement.
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