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Oakland faith leaders call for a state of emergency

Last night, Bishop Robert Jackson spoke at the Oakland City Council meeting. He and other Oakland ministers came together to demand more aggressive action from Mayor Jean Quan in response to a recent spike in violence. They asked her to call for a state of emergency. KALW’s Holly Kernan spoke with the Bishop to ask him what that would mean for the city.

BISHOP ROBERT JACKSON: The first homicide of the year was a 17 year old. He was sitting in the car and someone went up and shot him four times and killed him. Seventeen years old and I had to talk to his mom and step-dad and minister to them, and I’m telling you, it was just heart wrenching to see that. He didn’t even know what hit him.

HOLLY KERNAN: What was his name?

BISHOP JACKSON: His name is Tyronta. He was the first homicide of 2013. His name was Tyronta Mickens. Seventeen years old.

KERNAN: And you’re part of a group of Black ministers that are calling for the city to formally declare a state of emergency?

BISHOP JACKSON: We have asked that, but the mayor says our city is not qualified for a state of emergency. I don’t know what it takes to have a state of emergency, but she said we didn’t qualify for one and that’s the reason why she hasn’t called for it.

KERNAN: Do you ever wonder if waiting for city leadership to take the lead on this is the wrong approach? That maybe we as the people living in Oakland do something?

BISHOP JACKSON: Well, we’re out there, we had 560 people out knocking on doors in the area which they call “The Killing Zone” in East Oakland this past Saturday. And then we prayed with 461 people, so we do that all of the time, our church especially, we’re in the streets praying in the neighborhoods, knocking on doors, praying with the people, and even the people are tired of all of that’s going on in the community as well, but the conclusion is like, what can we do? What can they do? It’s happening, and it’s happening in our community, there just seems to be no end in sight. 

Click the audio player above to listen to the interview. 

Crosscurrents Oakland
Holly Kernan is the architect of the award-winning Public Interest Reporting Project. She is currently news director at KALW 91.7FM in San Francisco. In 2009 she was named Journalist of the Year by the Northern California Chapter of the Society of Professional Journalists. Kernan teaches journalism at Mills College and the UC Berkeley Graduate School of Journalism and has taught at Santa Rosa Junior College, Youth Radio and San Francisco State University's Lifelong Learning Institute. She lives in Oakland with her husband, Mike, daughter, Julia, and retired greyhound Benjamin Franklin.