Oakland provides small grants to support the healing of those injured by violence

When Oakland resident LeJon Loggins lost his cousin to gun violence in 2006, he designed the obituary as if it were a work of art. It was an eight-page double-sided pamphlet full of color, images, quotes, and memories.

“Kind of like a school yearbook,” Loggins said.

“I wanted people in the community to know that his life was more than a number that was talked about on the news. When you look at the obituary and start smiling and remembering, you start the healing process.

Community members took note of Loggins’ thoughtful work and asked him for help when tragedy struck their own homes. He designed more than 700 obituaries in eight years, including 160 for Oakland homicide victims.

Loggins began planning his next move — a music-inspired healing session and candlelight vigil to remember Oaklanders who died this year — after Oakland’s Department of Violence Prevention announced the 3 October that nominations were open for his mini-grants program.

The grants will provide up to $15,000 to small nonprofit organizations and up to $5,000 to individuals leading innovative community healing initiatives for those most directly affected by gun violence, gender-based violence or commercial sexual exploitation.

The Violence Prevention Department was established in July 2017 to address violence in Oakland through a public health framework. The ministry uses data to better understand patterns of violence and implements prevention and response strategies through community partnerships.

In 2021, the ministry received nearly $20 million for 2022 to 2024, its highest level of funding since its creation. The 50% increase in the DVP budget comes amid a bad year for violent crime in Oakland. To date, homicide rates have risen 6% to 102 deaths, compared to the city’s three-year average of 96.

This year, $475,000 will be awarded through the DVP Mini-Grant Program. Applications are open until November 3 at midnight and the winners will be announced in early December. Youth Leadership Institutea San Francisco-based organization, will distribute the funds in partnership with Oakland’s Urban Strategies Council.

Earlier this month, the institute formed a 13-person committee made up of members of the Oakland community to review applications and select recipients.

CEO Patricia Barahona said the organization works to ensure the voices of those most affected by inequality have a place at the table to create change in their communities.

“It doubles as people who continue to show leadership,” Barahona said. “When you see that grandma, when you see that aunt, when you see that uncle showing up for people, I think it inspires others to know that the healing is here to stay.”

DVP launched its annual mini-grants program in 2019, after community members asked how they could access city funding for abused people in Oakland. Since then, the department has awarded just over $1 million to about 140 projects.

“DVP believes that people close to the issues help find solutions,” said DVP spokeswoman Candace Reese Walters. “The growth of healing happens best when the community leads the way.”

Founder Lorrain Taylor (purple shirt) with members of 1,000 Mothers to Prevent Abuse at their COPE Grief support group in Oakland. Credit: Courtesy of 1,000 Mothers to Prevent Abuse

Past grant recipients include 1,000 mothers to prevent violence, founded by Lorrain Taylor in response to the loss of his 22-year-old twin sons to gun violence. Last year, the organization received a mini-grant for a community healing and grief support group, COPE, and holiday gift cards to encourage healthy eating.

The organization plans to reapply for funding to develop a quarterly bereavement support and education program, and provide stipends to COPE support facilitators and participants. The funds would also be earmarked for an annual Grieving Mothers Walk for Healing in May.

Kei Kei Kemp, founder of Panther Skate Plaza in West Oakland plans to apply for a mini-grant that would provide food and supplies to skaters at DeFremery Park on Thursday nights.

“The game heals. For those three hours, it’s nothing but love,” Kemp said.

Jessica Scortt, co-founder of the recently opened selfish societya nonprofit hair salon and community resource center, will apply for a mini-grant to help fund weekly community healing circles.

Loggins’ grant proposal is for a candlelight vigil that will feature live music, art, culture and dance. He was inspired by his mother, who endured an abusive relationship after separating from her father. Periodically, Loggins saw his mother and her attacker disappear into the bedroom where they were arguing and fighting.

“My mom used to wear black eyes, like she wore socks every day,” Loggins said.

After the assaults, her mother stayed in the room, listening to music – Aretha Franklin, Diana Ross or Mary J. Blige.

“As a kid, I never really understood why this was a role model for her. Now I realized she was trying to come back, play this game and let us know she was okay. She would use the music for healing,” Loggins said.

Looking into the eyes of many grieving mothers, Loggins saw the connection to hers.

“I want this musical healing session and candlelight vigil to be a start for our town and give our mothers an opportunity to heal and come back,” Loggins said.

The vigil is part of Loggins’ larger vision to facilitate healing and change through his community production company, Bay Vision Media Groupwhere he offers a filmmaking apprenticeship program for affected youth and adults.

“Oakland is a genius at trying new and different things to spark something in our community for change,” he said. “Through music and film, I try to create another spark bigger than Oakland.”

This article was co-published with North Oakland.

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