Darrell Smith

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Darrell Smith
Violence Interrupter Coordinator

dsmith@youthalive.org | (510) 594-2588 x314

There are families, even whole communities, in Oakland that instill in their young people a sense of responsibility, a love for their city, and a strong urge to give back. Clearly, Youth ALIVE!’s Darrell Smith grew up in one of those families. Darrell is coordinator of Youth ALIVE!’s growing team of violence interrupters.

YA!’s violence interrupters are men and women embedded in neighborhoods across the city, neighborhoods where they grew up, and where they now work to keep the peace, to mediate conflicts that might turn violent, and to mentor those they see drifting toward possible violence or incarceration.

After graduating from Fremont High, in 2011 Darrell earned a degree in Business Management with a minor in Hospitality from Central State University of Ohio, an HBCU. While at Central State, he pledged the Alpha Phi Alpha fraternity, making him a fraternity brother of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

You can do lots of things with a degree in Business Management. But here’s where that sense of responsibility comes in: every single job Darrell’s had since college has been in service to others in need, from transition age youth to those living life on the streets in San Francisco. “I love the type of job,” says Darrell, “where I can give back.”

Like his cousin, Youth ALIVE! Intervention Manager Paris Davis, Darrell has a deep understanding of what pulls a young person toward a perilous path. He watched it throughout his youth in East Oakland. “All the men were dead or in jail or on drugs,” he says. And it seemed like there was no help, not for those men who were gone, not for the families left behind. Darrell lost loved ones to the gun, including two young cousins. He says that changed him. “I was going down the wrong path.” When cousin Paris joined Youth ALIVE! and started talking about our programs and our people, Darrell was moved. This is what we need, he thought. “It really moved my heart.” Now he uses those business management skills, and his knowledge of Oakland, to managing the nuts and bolts of this incredibly important program, to help the violence interrupters be where they need to be — 24/7 — to save lives, sometimes joining the interrupters in meditations. “I love doing God’s work,” he says. And Darrell continues moving forward. The father of three will have earned his master’s degree in Psychology soon. He knows he can honor the memory of his lost loved ones by saving lives in Oakland, by helping young people on the streets see that there is more out there than violence, by helping them believe in themselves.