The Q-and-A with author and reporter Jill Leovy was disappointing.

Voice of San Diego should have included more voices in this dialogue. Collaboration and discussions happening in certain areas across the city have not only helped curb violence, but have also broken down barriers between police and community to build better relationships.

Data does not tell the whole story. For instance, one homicide victim means roughly 200 people are impacted, traumatized and unlikely to receive supportive services they need.

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People like Leovy think they know all about the state of black America. They think they know all the ways to save black people from themselves. But they haven’t even considered what’s already working.

How about we collectively discuss the issues of accountability? We all share accountability for the violence epidemic, not just the police.

For too long, it’s been laid at the feet of the police. But finding suspects in a homicide is not just a police matter. When lives are taken, some of the first people to come forward to detectives with information are the family members who just lost their loved ones. It is everyone’s responsibility not to harbor murderers and rapists in our neighborhoods.

Every parent who has lost a child wants the suspect caught. They would – and do – help to make that happen in neighborhoods all over the country.

San Diego’s black communities have credible messengers and volunteers who work to help residents, gangs, police and judicial officials make progress toward providing supportive services, instead of continuing patterns of suppression. This is how we start to curb the systemic issues of unequal access and often disparaging treatment in black and brown communities. This is how we help reduce violence and prevent retaliation.

Let’s deal with the fact that millions of dollars goes to police, probation, courts and prisons while communities are left with very little to get services to the people most in need. If people had support, they would react differently in situations instead of resorting to violence.

This systemic failure has been a targeted attack on the poor, who can’t fight or help themselves. Why hasn’t the mayor, City Council members or county supervisors taken a percentage of public safety funds and invested those into grassroots community organizations doing the work?

They’re making a difference with very little resources. A three-year grant will never change 20 years of untreated trauma, institutional racism, lack of access to services and more.

Sometimes having educated folks at the helm with no direct experience is the worst thing when trying to make changes for those in need. I was disappointed with Leovy’s depiction and your article. We are all learning in our work around this community, and I would hope that next time it’s more open to other viewpoints.

Tasha Williamson is co-founder of the San Diego Compassion Project, and a consultant for several community initiatives. Williamson’s letter has been edited for style and clarity. See anything in there we should fact check? Tell us what to check out here.

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