Oakland opens 'Safe Spaces for Dialogue' as Bay Area reacts to week of nationwide violence

Flowers covered the sites of the nation's wounds this week, as people mourned for the officers in Dallas, for Philando Castile in Minnesota and for Alton Sterling in Baton Rouge. The deaths and injuries are being felt by a nation, where some say they are heartbroken and weary of what they see as a cycle of vigils and violence.

"I feel that this keeps happening and each time it grows less and less shocking. Which is very sad because things like that shouldn't be normal," said Daniela Santiuste-Loera, 17, of Stockton.

In Oakland, the flags outside the police department were lowered to half-staff, as were flags across the nation. The pain as real to people in the Bay Area as it is at the sites of the shootings.

"Very, very discouraged. If you’ve seen the videos and the way the police reacted, those men didn't have to die," said James Tillman of Victorville, California who was walking with his wife and her mother in Jack London Square, "It's bouncing around to every state and me myself, I think it's going to get worse."

"I think it's kind of crazy. I really do. I think it's just out of control to tell you the truth," said Destinie Schumacker, an Antioch mother of five who was visiting Oakland with her family.

Some say the nation is facing a critical crossroads and fear their communities are ripping apart.

"As a human being, you cannot go through the events of this last week and not be touched and not be painfully aware that America is not working," said Oakland Mayor Libby Schaaf, who put out a call Friday for area churches and community centers to open their doors through the weekend to give people a safe space to pray, share their feelings in community dialogue, and process what has happened this week. 
From Oakland's Mayor, to President Obama, and to the presidential hopefuls Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump, the crosstalk and controversy over gun violence, race relations, and policing have become regular talking points, as the country faces an increasing divide.

There are those who are calling for a ratcheting down of the rhetoric, a call from many Americans hoping to find understanding in common ground.

"I'm on nobody's side, but the side of humanity. Because nobody should have to live life through what everybody's going through right now," said Shalita Tillman of Victorville, California.

"Both of them are sad, you know when it's officers doing their job they have a lot of pressure I guess and a lot of tension...I think it's not very good on both sides," said Jerome Bloodworth of Oakley.

"It becomes a very us versus them mentality and when we try to make change it's a lot harder because they're more resistant, because they feel they're being attacked. So seeing it from both sides in my opinion is very important," said Maceo Santuiste-Loera, a 19-year-old college student from Stockton.

"It's going to take something bigger than one person.  It's going to take a whole lot of people to bring this together," said Barbara Cunningham a San Francisco native who lives in Highland.

"We shouldn't come together every time there's some kind of death. Let's come together first to say how can we make this world better for everybody," said Shalita Tillman, "How do we bring the demise of racism? How do we do that? Let's be proactive as a human race to tackle that issue. Cause nobody can do it all alone."

The hope of many people is that there will be a nationwide effort to find answers, peace, and more unity, after a week of so much violence and despair.

Oakland Safe Spaces for Community Dialogue, open through the weekend 


The City of Oakland and Oakland Unified School District would like to provide safe spaces across the city for Oaklanders to engage in community conversations about what is happening in Oakland and around the country. We have asked faith based leaders in Oakland to open the doors of their places of worship so community members can come together. We have asked Oakland’s arts community and the leaders of other gathering spaces across our city to open their doors as well. We hope neighbors will be inspired to come together in their homes too, to talk honestly about what has been happening.

Below is a list of locations and times when facilities in various parts of our city will be open for these community-led conversations. In some places facilitation will led by restorative justice providers, and in others community members will lead these self-directed conversations, with the intent of providing a forum for coming together.

Friday, 7/8, from 7pm-9pm
Saturday, 7/9, from 3pm-5pm
Lincoln Square Park Recreation Center
250 Tenth Street, Oakland, CA 94607

Saturday, 7/9 from 1pm-3pm
OUSD Mclymonds High School (Cafeteria)
2607 Myrtle St, Oakland, CA 94607

Saturday, 7/9 from Noon-3pm
City of Oakland Park and Recreation Studio One (Theater)
365 45th St, Oakland, CA 94609

Saturday, 7/9 from Noon-3pm
Ira Jenkins Rec Center (Gym)
9175 Edes Ave, Oakland, CA 94603

Saturday, 7/9 from Noon-3pm
Carmen Flores Rec Center (Large meeting Room)
1637 Fruitvale Ave, Oakland, CA 95601

Saturday, 7/9 from 3pm-5pm
Fruitvale-San Antonio Senior Center
3301 East 12th Street, Suite 201, Oakland, CA 94601

Sunday, 7/10 from 6pm-9pm
BB Memorial Church Prayer Vigil hosted by Rev. Dr. Charley Hames, Jr.
3900 Telegraph Ave, Oakland, CA 94609