Violence Interrupter (East Oakland)
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Violence Interrupter Morris Turner has Oakland in his bones. Born and raised in Brookfield Village, middle school at James Madison, high school at Castlemont. And now, Youth ALIVE!, where his main focus is to increase the peace in Deep East Oakland. Morris worked for a time in construction, in home care, but the streets of the Town were calling. He admits to causing trouble when he was young. But now the call was for something different. For peace. For communication. “I’d been wanting to give back,” he says.
Youth ALIVE!’s violence interrupter team is right in the middle of the progress Oakland has made over the past few years in reducing violence. They step in after a shooting or homicide to prevent the violence from continuing, or escalating. They mediate potentially violent, or already violent, conflicts between individuals, groups and gangs. They save lives. It’s dangerous, intense work. And it takes a certain kind of person to do it. Like all the members of YA!’s Violence Interrupter team, Morris is a natural problem solver. “I’ve always been the one for reasoning,” he says. “You got to give a person a chance to talk.” Also like the other members of the Youth ALIVE! staff, Morris has been deeply affected by violence in Oakland. He comes from a sprawling family with deep roots here. He says he lost so many people that be became numb to it.
But that numbness didn’t last. This father of 6 boys wants to do his part to make the streets of Oakland safe and to give young people alternatives in life, opportunities for a future. Morris says that a lot of times, when they do finally talk, guys who had been enemies find out that they have a lot in common, that they like each other. They can even become friends. Making that happen, or at least getting them to calm down and see the bigger picture, to put the guns down and think, is Morris’s job, and he embraces it. “I’m getting paid,” he says, “to do what I love.”