TNT, The Voice of the Community:
Teens on Target youth leaders Gregory Hampton and Jaymes Fitzpatrick, juniors — and best friends — at Castlemont High School in East Oakland, traveled recently to a student summit on gun violence in San Diego. They spoke for Oakland.
The San Diego summit was put together by Team Enough, a national movement supported by the Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence and born in the aftermath of the February 2018 shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida. That crime left 17 students and teachers dead, another 17 wounded, and countless others deeply traumatized. The summit was led by students from Parkland, as well as youth from other cities where mass shootings have left lasting scars: Orlando, Littleton, Colorado. They were joined by gun safety advocates from Students Demand Action. Discussions centered around organizing, fundraising and how to involve elected officials in the movement. Much of the focus was on laws and lobbying.
Youth ALIVE! field staff work with violently wounded people in Oakland, to change lives, to save lives. But we know that lasting change can happen only if the system itself is changed, if we can pass laws that increase safety, fairness and equality. Our Teens on Target youth leaders have been advocating for this kind of change for going on 30 years. The San Diego chapter of Team Enough invited TNT to help strategize ways youth across the country could work together to stop the violence.
On the anniversary of the Parkland shooting, Gregory and Jaymes joined TNT Coordinator Hisham Ali Bob, as the voices of those who deal with a different kind of violence, a more pervasive, persistent kind.
Jaymes says they brought into the conversation something that had been missing. “I told them we needed to talk about community,” he says. It was an important message about balance, about remembering that most victims are not shot in mass shootings, that on the streets of Oakland we have the equivalent of a mass shooting every two weeks.
School shootings are an affront to humanity. So, of course, is the ongoing, accumulated bloodshed on the streets of our cities. Still, there is something about blood being shed, with great violence and shocking suddenness, in a school, a place where we all have spent so much of our lives, that galvanizes the general public (including the NRA) in ways that shootings of young people on the streets of places like Oakland never have.
Hisham says the summit accomplished much and created real momentum. “And now,” he says, “when they think of urban violence, they’ll turn to us.” Since San Diego, Team Enough members have visited Oakland and engaged in letter-writing campaigns with TNT youth leaders.
Gregory says that he’s not sure how clearly the summit heard the message he and Jaymes brought, but that they were glad to be there, grateful to be invited. “We got to learn a lot and to meet new people,” he says. “And we got to go to San Diego.”