On Monday, January 28, 2013, PACT and its associated partners brought together up to 80 members of the community to meet at Stockton City Hall for a prayer vigil to "Stop the Violence" and "Pray for Peace".
It was a great turnout for a cold winter evening on the first weekday. Parents, children and youth leaders alongside leaders of local clergy stood on the steps of the City Hall to speak about the issues in the city and what needed to be done.
A clear stance was taken to reach out to people, to not solely rely on punitive means to keep the peace, but to bring people together as a community, and to care for family and friends to ensure they do not fall into dangerous situations. Providing students with meaningful after school activities would prevent them from falling into the wrong crowds. Night walks around the city by clergy and community leaders would pave the way towards reclaiming the streets of Stockton for the people.
"The voice of God should be louder than the voice of violence!"
Several clergy members of the community led sermons to encourage the people to keep faith in their city and themselves, and that they had the power to make their city a better and safer home for everybody.
The important message was to bring together people of different communities, of different churches, and of different backgrounds to break down barriers of segregation and fear, to reinvigorate the people, and to take Stockton and make it into the city that they could be proud of.
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Low test scores, high drop-out rates, massive suspensions…these are just some of the elements fueling parents frustrations that led to the gathering on April 25, 2012. White Rose Church of God in Christ and First Thessalonians hosted the event in Southeast Stockton. SUSD Board member Sal Ramirez and Child Welfare and Attendance Administrator Dee Alimbini were the invited guests. They listened as parents and students shared their concerns and frustrations. This is some of the testimony given during the event:
“[T]he principal wouldn’t let me have access to the office, first when I hit my head on the tetherball pole then the second time when I had a bloody nose. She also kept me and my friend in the office for 2 lunch recesses for wearing salt water sandals, but this was a new rule that I wasn’t aware of. But other students in my class and school were allowed to wear them. So I think that the rules should apply to everyone not just me and my friend.”
“She (14 year old granddaughter) has been suspended continuously throughout the school year. I’ve asked for homework, can’t get it. There’s a lack of assistance there coming from the school site. She is low performing and is about to be sent out to high school with little academic achievement.”
Parents asked the invited guests to work with them on a variety of issues to make the schools better for their children. Both Sal and Dee committed to work with the parents to implement the following recommendations:
-Individual Graduation Plans starting in third grade
-Conducting a review of the last 50 suspensions at each school site to determine if they could have been prevented
- Implementing policy for staff to provide homework and/or make-up work for students that have been suspended
-Modifying report cards so that they include a student’s cumulative credits and the educational track the student is on
The gathering was the first step in building a working partnership between parents and the District.
In November of 2011, over 500 clergy of 25 different faiths including 70 Catholic priests from around the country gathered in New Orleans for a powerful week of training and planning together. Local clergy who attended the event were Rev. John Harris of Greater White Rose COGIC, Rev. Amelia Adams of the Open Door House of Prayer, Rev. Dennis Moore of First Thessalonians Missionary Baptist Church, Rev. Ernest Williams of Evangelist COGIC, and Rev. Barney Lewis of Seniors Want A Tomorrow (SWAT). On the second evening of that gathering, event participants joined with over 2000 people at the New Orleans Lifelines to Healing Campaign Kick-Off Action where leaders called on elected officials for support for this violence prevention program for youth.
After the event, twelve local clergy of various denominations came together to discuss the rampant violence that has gripped Stockton and to look at possible solutions. The Lifelines to Healing model that was kicked-off in New Orleans became one of the main focuses of the group. In February of 2012, the group went up to Sacramento for some training and to experience a Lifelines to Healing “Night Walk” in the Mack Road corridor.
On March 1, 2012, Pastors from eight diverse congregations and their church leaders kicked-off the local “Lifelines to Healing” campaign with outreach to one of the seven high crime areas in the city of Stockton. The Lifelines to Healing campaign builds strong relationships between clergy and repeat offenders to reduce violence, and to extend a message of love and hope.
The Lifelines to Healing campaign is an evidence-based, data-driven and violence reduction opportunity to address pervasive violence and drug trafficking in neighborhoods. The premise behind this campaign, as shown through evidence-based practices, is that a small number of individuals engage in a large percentage of violence and drug offenses. In Sacramento, where the walks in the Mack area have been taking place for the past three years, the crime rate in that area has dropped by 50%.
The Lifelines to Healing clergy are using a strategy of focused deterred policing and targeted community engagement every Thursday as they walk the Bianchi/Greensboro neighborhood. Clergy are connecting to this same small number of individuals and are presenting them with a message that they are loved, but their criminal actions are not acceptable in the community.
Offenders are then presented with a coordinated and collaborative message delivered at a “call-in” to cease their behavior and accept the “lifeline” made available to them, or they will face the consequences of their actions. The “call-in” is a collaborative effort between the community, local agencies, police, and the probation department. The primary goals of Lifelines are to reduce violence in urban communities and to strengthen the capacity within communities to advocate for key violence prevention/peace creation strategies.
Our vision with this outreach extends beyond just stopping violence. It is about paying attention to the larger quality of life issues that affect our communities, especially communities of color.
On June 1, 2011, 200 Stockton leaders traveled down to Modesto to join with over 600 Central Valley leaders in a Prayer Vigil on the State Budget. This event included a wide range of cultures and faith traditions. Among the speakers were the Catholic Diocese of Stockton Bishop Blaire, Rev. Amelia Adams from the Open Door House of Prayer, Rev. John Harris from White Rose COGIC, and senior citizen Gloria Garcia. Part of the evening included a report of some of the devastation that recent state budget cuts have had. The Healthy Families Program was cut by $38.5 million affecting 55,000 children from low income families including 648 from San Joaquin County. The SSI/SSP program was cut by $192 million affecting approximately 8,500 seniors and people with disabilities. The evening ended with a call to sign on to a common faith statement. Staff from 2 of the valley legislative districts attended the event.
On May 19, 2011 close to 100 residents gathered at Central United Methodist Church to learn and talk about the devastating local impacts of state budget cuts.
The state budget is a local budget. Seventy-five cents of every dollar spent in the state’s general fund is for local assistance. Roberta Furger of PICO California gave a power point presentation on the State Budget, where the funds go and the local impact of cuts.