EAST PALO ALTO (KPIX) — The stories came from just about everyone: community members, local leaders, even law enforcement officers. This was a listening session, the subject was race and here to listen was Salvatore Cordileone, Archbishop of San Francisco.

“It dawned on me when I saw my cousin getting beat with a long black-handled flashlight by an LA County deputy sheriff,” said Derek Gaskins, recounting a story from his childhood.

“I’ve kind of been through this before where there was a lot of hope because we were starting discussions,” said another speaker. “But then it sort of died out.”

“It’s like, throughout my whole life it’s been a march,” said Halley Crumb. “It’s been a wrongful death. It’s been someone getting shot. I feel that right now, through 2020, we’re getting … a bigger light and the light is shining on what’s been wrong.”

After nearly two hours of listening, the archbishop spoke.

“I don’t know what that’s like, growing up in an inner-city neighborhood and being shot at and running away and seeing my friend next to me falling,” said Archbishop Cordileone. “I don’t know what it’s like growing up as a child in an inner-city neighborhood and the fear and sense of resentment upon seeing the police.”

Cordileone said he has spent recent months studying and reflecting on these issues and he prefaced his next comments by describing them as a work in progress, warning that they might make some in the crowd uncomfortable.

“Systemic racism, in my own mind, are cultural attitudes that get so ingrained that it blinds people in the group that have the advantage to the injustices they inflict on those who do not have that advantage,“ Cordileone said.

From there, he broadened the discussion to issues of family and directly mentioned abortion.

“It’s hard to say but it needs to be said,” Cordileone said. “I think about how Planned Parenthood targets black communities.”

Saturday’s event was part of a larger outreach effort by the church on these issues. Christoper Major is coordinator of the African American Ministry.

“My father was the first code enforcer in East Palo Alto,” Major explained. “He went away from us last year so, to be standing here as a son, to continue this work — I’m bringing people together in unity — is a blessing.”

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