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Saturday, February 03, 2007

"Live in Peace" March and Rally in East Palo Alto





Today I went to the "Live in Peace" March and Rally in East Palo Alto. Since late December there have been 20 shootings including several murders of teenagers in the community of 30,000 Latinos, African-Americans,
Tongans, and Caucasians. Two young Tongan girls are among the dead. The relatively new police chief Davis has emphasized communications and community policing and the crime rate had gone down dramatically last year. But the violence - most of it youth violence - just erupted with a momentum of its own. Perhaps a couple of thousand from the community - all ethnic groups were represented - and perhaps a hundred or so from neighboring, affluent Palo Alto, participated in the march and rally. The poetry and raps from the young people who took the stage were most inspiring of all. Some of them were close to someone who's been shot or killed. The march, noisy with conversations, a Tongan marching band, and spontaneous whoops of joy, made a clear statement about the community's intention to reclaim the streets and Jack Farrell Park. Today the dangerous park was filled with balloons and hot dogs and people of all ages and backgrounds. There were even some normally intimidating, weathered, motorcycle guys wearing their decal-laden leather jackets. Everybody saying "stop d'a violence." Faye McNair Knox, the Executive Director of One EPA, was introduced as the "Mother of East Palo Alto." I wondered how she felt about that because, not that long ago, it was the generation before her - Ms. Mouton and Ms. Wilkes who would get introduced like that, but immediately she shouted out, "I'm a Grandmother now!" She said that there's talk that some of the shooters have "put down their beef" and put away their guns. Even they are affected by a community outpouring for peace and safety. Perhaps they want to be part of it, if indeed, everybody perceives a vibrant community in EPA.

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