Last Saturday, about 240 community members and others gathered at John Adams Middle School as part of a continuing effort to craft a two-year “action plan” to curb gang violence in Santa Monica.
It was the second workshop to be sponsored by State Senator Sheila Kuehl’s office and the City of Santa Monica.
At the first meeting on February 26th, overall strategies for the plan were developed. They included promoting a sense of belonging, respect and identity, respecting cultural/ethnic sensitivity and competence, involving individuals and institutions throughout the community and improving resource coordination and interagency communication.
The highlight of the workshop was Alejandro Aldana’s recitation of his poem, “Sirens.”
(7/3/2004 at 10:04 P.M.)
My mind is tired of the sirens ringing every hour
I feel like taking a shower to cleanse myself of my wrongdoing
I often question what I am doing, in a time where my confidence is as sporadic as the tread of the wind
It’s like I’m living in a state of Catch-22, every situation I’m in is a no win
I’m like, “when will this all end?”
These damn sirens are ringing in my head
Anger was my sole initiative
Once influenced by dudes who would appraise their jewels before their soul
I was like a child who was never given any affection
Once a fool in need of direction
The thought of death led me to contemplate all of my built up resentment
Only then was I brought to my reflection
Once I plead with the divine spirit
It was like I bled from the spine of my wrists
In order to stop the hemorrhage I needed to cleanse myself of my unkempt past and ask for forgiveness as if I were in mass
It became time to stitch those old wounds and bare witness to my redefinition as truth was impending, patience became unending
Finally, those sirens grew accustomed to silence.
Aldana, a member of the board of the Pico Youth Center, got a standing ovation.
Participants then broke into groups titled “Bring It Home,” “Make It Work” and “Keep It Safe.”
The “Bring It Home” groups suggested having a central hub at Virginia Park, starting a day school for re-entry support, peer mentoring for incarcerated youth, developing culturally competent youth and community leaders, increasing parent and family education support and increasing youth support counseling and mentoring.
The people who took part in the “Make It Work” groups suggested enrolling 100 at-risk youth in mentoring and activity programs, creating a regional plan for youth development, Santa Monica-based businesses, including the media, partnering to create jobs, and increasing linkages between resources.
Finally, the “Keep It Safe” groups suggested establishing and expanding a formal mechanism for community police dialogue, implementing programs for restorative justice, including sensitivity training for police, and encouraging safe and good-looking communities.
Kuehl’s office and City staff will review these suggestions and the offers of help from such “action” partners as the Santa Monica Chamber of Commerce and the Santa Monica-Malibu Unified School District.
At the workshop, Santa Monica Police Chief James T. Butts told the Mirror he felt the workshops were a positive step because “anytime you have a dialogue to improve the knowledge base on both side of an issue it improves the knowledge on all sides of the issue.” As to whether the workshops will reduce gang violence in Santa Monica in the next two years, Butts said that the “reality of gangs is a generational issue. It’s highly doubtful you can stop it in midstream. Two years is unrealistic to eliminate gang life for those in it, but it can prevent the youth from transitioning into it.”