By John Ramos

OAKLAND (KPIX) — Last month, Oakland registered its 100th homicide of the year and the violence hasn’t ended there but, on Sunday, young people were offered an alternative — a day of fun as a reminder that positive behavior has its own rewards.

When the city suffered its 100th killing on September 20, officials immediately began arguing about how best to punish those causing the violence.

Sunday morning, the Cheryl Ward Ministries hosted an anti-violence block party at the Black Cultural Zone in East Oakland. In setting it up, Rev. Cheryl Ward says they decided to ask young people what they wanted.

“What do kids like? That’s what we’re going to do, is what kids like,” she said.

Tthey offered games and basketball challenge contests and even a pop-up roller skating rink. It turns out that success at throwing a good party may hold some of the same elements of preventing violence.

“When you start to hear the ages of young people who are committing the crimes, they’re beginning to be younger and younger,” said Rev. Ward. “And so I believe it’s our responsibility not to say, ‘those kids’ but to really know they are our kids. So you get their peers to reach out to them, get them involved in a day like this.”

Rev. Ward has created a team of young people to become positive influencers in the neighborhoods — people like Steven Harvey, who grew up in East Oakland.

“Just being raised around here, I’ve just seen a lot,” Harvey said. “I felt I have to take responsibility. You know, my age group, we all have to take responsibility.”

Harvey, age 20, is already seen as an elder on the streets so he’s reaching out to the youngest to offer a different perspective from the constant hate and negativity that he sees on social media. He thinks his age makes him a more effective messenger than the city council or police chief.

“Just the fact that this generation, how kinda messed up it is — just being able to see somebody from your age group or younger to be able to speak up and say something, it’s kind of effective,” he said. “Seeing somebody from your own class, we’re able to see eye-to-eye with each other.”

It’s a tough ask to carry a message of positivity, especially when, on the streets, strength is often equated with inflicting pain on others.

20-year old Travis Lyles says crime and violence are often glorified.

“Doing positive doesn’t stand out as much as doing negative, you know?” he said. “So they see the negative more than they see the positive. It is a tough environment.”

That’s where the secret to curbing Oakland’s violence may ultimately lie — not simply punishing wrongdoing but offering validation for doing the right thing.