It’s time to redefine public safety

Photo from My Brothers Keeper Sacramento

Essay: Youth and violence prevention must be central to any public safety plan

By DeAngelo Mack and D’Angelo Smalley

The COVID-19 pandemic, plus the racial justice protests over the past several months as a response to violent policing in communities, has laid bare the systems that harm Black, Latino and Native American people in particular.

It goes beyond policing, to the justice system, employment, housing, health care, education and much more. Although demonstrations have slowed, the movement and long-term commitment to racial equity and justice remains. 

That includes a resolution before the City Council on Tuesday to redefine public safety by incorporating public health and young people’s voices and addressing the root causes of trauma while creating a pathway for healing.

What lies beneath the surface for Black men like us is that we struggle to survive each day because of the untold impact that these systems have on our mental, emotional and physical well-being. This unseen struggle has been amplified by the isolation of social distancing during the coronavirus pandemic—or for some of us the fear of simply being outdoors due to the color of our skin. Systemic racism leads to chronic stress that is literally killing us, albeit too slowly to catch on video.

As young Black men, we have fought hard to address deep-rooted inequities and fought hard for justice. We stand here today, excited to serve as mentors from My Brother’s Keeper Sacramento and to support a growing number of youth community leaders who are paving the way and identifying solutions to these critical issues. MBK Sacramento, administered by The Center at Sierra Health Foundation, was formed from President Obama’s initiative to address persistent opportunity gaps for boys and young men of color through mentoring and leadership programs.

DeAngelo Mack is director of state policy with Public Health Advocates and healthy development strategy lead for My Brother’s Keeper Sacramento.

To help bridge these gaps, we must follow the lead of those most impacted by these issues and call on others to do the same. It’s inspiring to see young Sacramento youth who grew out of MBK Sacramento coming together with the Sac Kids First Coalition to promote the public safety resolution. These young leaders have spent considerable time working on what a safe community looks like, what they need to achieve that vision and what justice and equity means to them.

D’Angelo Smalley is a graduate of MBK Sacramento’s youth fellowship program and is now a peer mentor.

In the past few years, we’ve seen other youths put their values, determination and organizing skills to work, leading global movements that have mobilized millions. Young people are proving every day that we’re leaders and we’re ready. We need more youth voices and youth organizations to help build a healthier, safer and strong community.

Please consider joining our movement and sign the Sac Kids First Coalition petition to support the public safety resolution.

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