Left to right: Oaklandside managing editor Jacob Simas, Oakland Frontline Healers founder Daryle Allums, community organizer Ms. Towanda Sherry, organizers Olu and Barbara Oluwole, and Oakland Violence Prevention Coalition chair Antoine Towers gathered at Liberation Park in East Oakland on May 21, 2021 to discuss gun violence in the community.
Left to right: Oaklandside managing editor Jacob Simas, Oakland Frontline Healers founder Daryle Allums, community organizer Ms. Towanda Sherry, organizers Olu and Barbara Oluwole, and Oakland Violence Prevention Coalition chair Antoine Towers gathered at Liberation Park in East Oakland on May 22, 2021 to discuss gun violence in the community. Credit: Screenshot of video produced by Vincent Cortez for Mitchell Street Pictures

A man was shot and killed in East Oakland on Monday night, pushing the city’s official homicide total to 60 this year—nearly double the number of people killed in Oakland at this time last year. That incident comes on the heels of a shocking and tragic mass shooting near Lake Merritt early on Saturday evening that killed a 22-year-old man and wounded six other people.

Both shootings continue a worrisome trend: Violence has increased in Oakland since the onset of the pandemic and the city is on track to experience more homicides than it has since 2012 when 130 people were killed. Gun violence, in general, is also up, with 295 firearm assaults reported by the Oakland Police Department as of Monday, a 75% increase over last year. A majority of Oakland’s homicides and firearm assaults have occurred in the East Oakland flatlands and have disproportionately impacted Black residents and families.

The Oaklandside recently recorded two in-depth conversations with community leaders who have been personally impacted by gun violence and deeply involved in combating it.

The first (below) took place on May 22 at Liberation Park, part of the Black Cultural Zone in East Oakland, and featured five guests: Daryle Allums, the founder and executive director of Oakland Frontline Healers and the Oakland Pillars; Ms. Towanda Sherry, a member of the Black Cultural Zone, a leader with the Fair Chance Housing Coalition, and a longtime community organizer whose son, Simbarashe Sherry, was shot and killed in 2019; Olu and Barbara Oluwole, violence prevention and criminal justice reform advocates with Faith In Action East Bay (formerly Oakland Community Organizations) whose son, Olutokumbo Oluwole, was shot and killed on his 22nd birthday in 2003; and Antoine Towers, chair of the Oakland Violence Prevention Coalition. The conversation, which lasted roughly two hours, was edited for length and is being presented here in a condensed version.

The second (below) is an interview with John Jones III, longtime community organizer and the director of community and political engagement at Just Cities, who spoke about the current wave of gun violence from his perspective as an East Oakland native and a former victim and perpetrator of violence in his earlier years. Jones is also a writer who published a lengthy personal essay in The Oaklandside last January, which delves deep into East Oakland history, the underground economy, the impact of trauma, and the layered reasons why he believes today’s violence “is not happening in a vacuum.” This conversation too was edited for length.

Both of the recordings were streamed on June 15, 2021, as part of The Oaklandside’s one-year anniversary event, Live-ish, a three-day celebration of our newsroom’s first year, featuring community conversations, short documentaries, panel discussions, and musical performances by local artists.

Blue Shield is the presenting sponsor of Live-ish.

Jacob Simas is Managing Editor of The Oaklandside. He joined us from Univision, where he led social-impact initiatives and established the Rise Up: Be Heard journalism training program at Fusion for young people and community organizers in underserved areas of California. He was a senior editor and director of youth and community media at New America Media, where he led a community news network that amplified student and youth reporting in California news deserts. He is an advisory board member for Youth Beat, a graduate of UC Berkeley Graduate School of Journalism, and a former producer with KPFA's First Voice apprenticeship program.