OAKLAND (KCBS) – The impact of youth violence reaches beyond just “victim” and “victimizer.” There are those on the perimeter who are watching their best friends get cut down or die.
In high school, it’s easy to hide the pain of loss – to pretend it’s normal to visit your 14-year-old best friend in the hospital after he’s been shot ten times.
“I haven’t really gotten to read to him yet because there have been a lot of visitors and I’ve just been letting them go in, but when he’s laying down he might want some ice, so I’ll get him the ice,” said Oakland High freshman Rashon Wilson of his friend, who is laid up in a hospital bed with tubes sticking out of him. “He knows that he was at the wrong place at the wrong time, and he knows that it’s something he just needs to get past.”
But who helps Rashon get past the pain? What gets him past the expectation of losing peers? “Actually some of the dudes that I used to grow up with now, some of them are in jail for killing people and stuff,” said Wilson. “Right now, and they’re the same age as me.”
KCBS’ Holly Quan Reports:
High school senior Emery Lowe said that in Oakland, loss is a bitter lesson you learn early.
“I just lost an uncle today,” said Lowe. “Well, he’s not even really my uncle, but I feel like he’s my uncle or a family member, someone that’s close. It was kind of like ‘bam!’ today, like I’m never going to see him again, somebody I used to love and enjoy being around too.”
Someone else he loved, his friend Raymen Justice,17, was shot and killed a year ago at 13th and MacArthur Streets, a block from Oakland High School, where he had been visiting a teacher in an effort escape the violence by boosting his grades.
“He had started to step it up,” said Lowe. “He began getting 3.6s and having a high GPA and stuff, and then this day comes and they just take him. That really hurt my heart too that they would take somebody that’s so close to me, that was really doing something with his life.”
Experts say that even kids trying to steer clear of trouble can suffer from post-traumatic stress disorder.
“No one experiences what an African American male experiences in this society,” said Matin Abdul-Qawi, program director for the Oakland School District’s African American Male Achievement Initiative. “Not that other nationalities and groups and genders don’t also struggle, but nothing is as unique as African American males, to the point where it manifests itself in self-destructive behavior. It manifests itself in not valuing education, or harming each other.”
In the next segment of the report, we’ll take a look at the cutting edge approach the Oakland schools are taking to raise successful African American boys.
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