Usually this at this time of year, I like to reflect on all that gone down over the past 365 days and figure out what sort of steps to take in order build upon past victories and successes. I also like to reflect on what sort of steps to take to avoid and recover from setbacks and pitfalls..I also like to celebrate the best and worse of a particular year around this time… However, none of that can really be addressed until we focus on one of the most pressing issues at hand-Our Children and they way we in society treat them.
Last night in the city of Oakland a 5-year-old named Gabriel Martinez jr was shot and killed as he stood next to his father outside a popular taco truck the family owned on 54th and International. According to early reports some cat purchased food, pulled out a gun, shot Gabriel and rolled off in his car with a female in tow. Words cannot began to express the heartache, frustration, anger and bewilderment felt when we heard this being reported on the evening news..
Many of us in the city of Oakland and the Bay in general are at a loss for words. What do you say to this? How do we tackle this? This was the third toddler killed in Oakland this year and the 6th or 7th that I can recount being shot and injured in the Bay Area this past year. For an area that prides itself on being organized and forward thinking in its politics, how is this happening on our watch?
Earlier this month Oakland grieved as 2-year-old Baby Hiram Lawrence was laid to rest. He was the victim of a shooting that took place during the filming of a rap video in West Oakland. That fateful night, 7 others were hit during the incident, Baby Hiram was shot in the head while being held in his father’s arms. For days everyone hoped and prayed that he would make a miraculous recovery. The family sought several opinions from different doctors before he was taken off life support.. Hiram’s passing left many vowing that such a horrific crime would never happen again. People were still reeling from a toddler being killed over the summer.
In early August 3-year-old Carlos Nava was shot as he walked with his parents from a pizza shop also on International Blvd not too far from last night’s shooting. The bullet that hit him was intended for a rival drug dealer who stood nearby. Carlos’ death was painful as shocked community members tried to make sense of what took place and why.
‘What type of person runs around shooting kids?’ is what everyone asked..
The easy answer is; one who sees no value in life. Its a person whose values are disconnected from the majority of us. It’s someone who is an aberration.
The easy answer is to take an incident like this, isolate it and put the sole responsibility on the perpetrators. The easy answer is to get him off the street, lock him up and be done with it.. Case closed, problem solved…Only it’s Not..
Unfortunately these horrific shootings I cited reflect a larger more difficult mindset and societal attitude that far too many of us simply want to sweep under the rug. These incidents reflect an ugly truth all of us have to own up to…As much as we purport, we don’t really care about our kids.
We live in a world where we claim that children are blessings. We talk about how their cries, their shouts, their enthusiasm and excitement is welcome music to our communities. We say our children represent hope and endless possibilities. of better tomorrows. We say children touch our hearts and marvel how they are reminders of times when things weren’t so complicated.
Children are supposed to be our top priority and the reason for which we all live. However, our collective actions show a sharp contradiction. It ranges from the policies we support to the way we respond or don’t respond when we hear stories about children being killed, raped, kidnapped etc..How we respond to these disturbing scenarios, uphold children and show how value them is a reflection on all of us.
Right now we’re talking about 3 toddlers killed in Oakland and make no mistake those who pulled the trigger are scum of the highest order. They need to be caught, punished and held accountable. But as we reflect back on this tragedy and all that has gone down in 2011, do we have the luxury of disconnecting the callousness behavior exuded with those children being shot from the indifference we as a society have shown in allowing policies to fall in place that put our kids on the short end of the stick?
For example, it was just last week Oakland Mayor Jean Quan noted that the city had spent over 5 million dollars to combat the Occupy Movement. There was no money to be found (500k) to keep 5 elementary schools from closing in spite of spirited protests. Much of that money went to police who are seemingly on top their job when it comes to removing tents or as was demonstrated yesterday, protestors from trees, but ‘overwhelmed’ when a toddler is shot on crowded streets.
We recently saw Governor Jerry Brown approved over a billion dollars worth of budget cuts to take place in California with Childcare, public schools, school transportation and healthcare being primary targets.He says we must live within our means.. You mean the children who will be impacted by these cuts were spending up all the state’s money??
A few weeks ago we heard GOP Presidential candidate Newt Gingrich complain that child labor laws designed to stop exploitation of children was getting in the way of job growth. He called them stupid and suggested that we get rid of the janitors and replace them with kids.. When pressed Gingrich re-affirmed his remarks.
Overall we’ve seen our economic policies to result in almost 25% of the kids in the US living below the poverty level? Let’s stop and also think on that for a minute..
Today as we close out of 2011 and make our way into 2012, this country which prides itself on being a super power rooted in deep Christian values has a quarter of its kids living in poverty. Many of us try not to grasp onto that because we are either caught up in reality TV shows where folks toss around and spend money like it grows on trees or we believe the hype that suggests poverty is not systemic. We like to believe that there’s a logical explanation for starving children and it’s not because we don’t care. Sadly before many of us are willing to look at the larger picture we are more apt to point a finger a do a Herman Cain impression and tell those who are poor ‘Blame yourself’.
We’ve been caught up in weddings involving über rich people like the Kardashians where the nuptials costs well over 10 million dollars and land ends in divorce in less than 90 days. We won’t even talk about the lavish spectacle called the Royal Wedding between Prince William and Kate Middleton that dominated our nightly newscasts in 2011.
$34 million was spent on this weeding as TV news networks here in the US spent millions to cover it including having full anchor teams on the ground providing round the clock coverage. Could you imagine if similar efforts were put into finding out why we have kids starving and impoverished in the US or why we have close to 50% of the children on planet earth living in extreme poverty meaning about 1 BILLION children are malnourished? Could you imagine if those networks gave that same type of ‘investigative’ coverage as to why children are being shot? Let’s think about that for minute.
While we’re thinking let’s take a look at these two stunning reports that CBS news magazine 60 Minutes did earlier this year but was ignored by many..
While kids all across the globe were starving and living in extreme poverty or here at home living in cars, many of us were caught up ‘Watching the Throne‘ in 2011 as popular artists like Jay-Z and Kanye celebrated over the top opulence in what many claim was the album of the year.
Not only did we get caught up, some of us got upset when community minded artists like Chuck D of Public Enemy tried to ‘gently remind them’ of the bigger picture. He noted that it’s not always cool to stunt and bling in the middle of the worst recessions since the depression of the 1930s. In response to Ye and Jay’s song Otis where they drive around in a sawed off Maybach automobile, Chuck released a song called Notice, Know This.. He wanted to underscore the fact that the man whose music Kanye and Jay Z sampled from, Otis Redding was the antithesis to what they portrayed in the video. He was a humble man who lived modestly and tried to start a musician’s union
As we get ‘caught up’ in the materialism of life, our kids are getting caught up in all sorts of scenarios that leave them in poverty, short-changed educationally and seen as disposable. The 5-year-old toddler killed in Oakland last night is not something we can shove aside and do business as usual. His death requires all of us to step up our efforts to transform this community and this world and ways we never imagined for the better…
3 years ago, the city of Oakland and the world rang in the New Year only to be greeted by the unthinkable. In the wee hours of the morning, an unarmed 22-year-old father of a 4-year-old girl was made to lay face down on a BART subway platform with his hands behind his back. A larger heavier white officer who was kneeling on this young man’s back pulled out a gun and shot this brother killing him instantly on the eve of this country getting its first African-American president.
Oscar Grant died and in his savage death a movement was spawned. It was a movement that brought people from all sorts of communities together who spent a good two years pursuing justice for Oscar and his family. Many say the Oscar Grant movement was transformative. At the very least it heightened awareness on police brutality and exposed the major flaws in the justice system. It’s because the organizing that went on around Grant that folks in Oakland were able to be effective with some of the activities and direct actions they undertook with the Occupy Movement.
What sort of movement will arise out of the killing of this 5-year-old Gabriel Martinez Jr in the wake of Oscar Grant and the in backdrop of the ongoing Occupy Movement? What sort of steps will we take to transform our community and truly make the violent death of young children a thing of the past?How will we heal our community?
A local artist named Jahi suggested that 2012 be the year we go all out with some sort of ban the gun campaign.. Someone else suggested that we start Occupy /patrolling our neighborhoods with the full intent of making it safe for our kids.. Others say we will have to go all out to make love and upliftment as a commonly embraced value and not death and nihilism which so many hold…We should keep in mind as a country we have supported policies like drone strikes that have missed their targets and killed innocent children in places like Pakistan.. So we really have a lot to reflect on..
Tomorrow on New Years Day a massive march and rally commemorating Oscar’s death and acknowledging all those who have fallen prey to police violence is scheduled to take place… It’ll be a big miss if we don’t make mention the death of Gabriel and pledge our commitment to stop the carnage in our community not just by sadistic police, but also by sadistic individuals who see Black and Brown life as cheap and as disposable as the police often do..
We have our work cut in 2012.. Let it be a fulfilling year… please let us all rise to the occasion..
written by Davey D