Saturday, July 30, 2005 | A generation of kids in San Diego is endangered. What can we do?

The communities of the Bronze Triangle Community Development Corporation (Logan Heights, Grant Hill and Stockton) – east of the downtown ballpark – have been studying the plight of their economy and their families, especially their young, to see how they could empower all those concerned to create solutions. The politicians have failed them, and there was nowhere else to turn but to themselves. This is what we call the Pogo syndrome, when people don’t really find solutions until they’ve looked into their mirrors and see that they, also, are part of the problem.

The California Endowment funded the Bronze Triangle to conduct research and seek solutions. A group of well-known community leaders served as the co-chairs of the continuing event in which some 75 people participated. The Bronze Triangle has a specially endowed leader, a former welfare mother, Gale Walker, who has two sons and comprehends what deprivation can do. You kill yourself to find work, hope that it pays enough to exist, hope that the local schools prepare the young for the future, and look around to find whom they can blame. Oh yes, and fear a telephone call that your kid was knifed or shot by a gangster.

Strong leadership can handle confrontation with facts and lessons but does not depend upon seeking the “guilty.” It is so easy to blame the police whom they see as catalysts for failure, stopping them for “no reason,” hassling them, knowing that the kids are guilty of something.

The expectation of this process of planning for an autumn summit on the gang situation is failure, on the part of all experts on the subject of gangs, for it appears an impossible task. However, if and when success comes into the process, it will change their world, for there will be celebration by the police and the people. The exact date and place of the late autumn summit have not been set until the organizers know the possible appearances and convenient dates for national figures such as the Governor and First Lady. The vision is to provide effective interventions before youth are jailed and to keep kids free of the justice system.

After the heat of some emotional outbursts between police and community, we decided that the next event would be a series of roundtable conversations in which the youth and law enforcement would meet to clear the air while expressing their concerns in their search for solutions. The entire group would then come together to review their collected findings and suggestions. This would take place in an environment of intense listening and conversation with the goal of humanizing, rather than demonizing.

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