Homies Empowerment Dinner

At 6pm on January 4th, 2011, inside the Eastlake YMCA in Oakland, Ca I spotted Pocho-One’s green A’s cap bobbing and weaving through the rows of teenagers in attendance for the evening’s event. Pocho-One was juggling his responsibility of distributing snacks on paper plates, while simultaneously snapping photos of the event he helped to create: Homie’s Empowerment Dinner.

This week’s Homie’s Empowerment Dinner featured special invited guest JR Valrey, an international journalist with roots here in Oakland, Ca. Valrey screened his documentary “Operation Small Axe”, which addressed issues of police brutality and documented much of the Oscar Grant saga here in Oakland.

The young men and women enjoyed food, a special screening of a documentary, and an engaging discussion- all for free. Cesar Cruz, founder of the Homie’s Empowerment program made it clear that, “we don’t do this for free… we do this for freedom”.

The intended goal of the weekly event is to get youth, especially Latino youth, from different neighborhoods to meet face to face, and break bread.  A large portion of the dialogue from the Homie’s Empowerment Dinner was guided toward understanding and making strides to get past the concept of “divide and conquer”.

Jack Bryson, family friend of Oscar Grant, was in attendance for the event as well. He opened his speech by informing the audience that this was his first public appearance at an Oscar Grant related event since the sentencing of Johannes Mehserle on November 5th, 2010. Bryson spoke of the verdict, and how it had gotten him down; but this event resurrected his spirit. He concluded his speech with three questions and a statement,

“Why is there Black vs. Black violence? and Brown vs. Brown violence?… or even Black vs. Brown violence?…here in Oakland, where the cops shoot us down, its evident that the violence is Blue vs. Black and Brown.”

The meeting concluded with a ceremonial circle of attendees exchanging handshakes and hugs. This ceremony was adopted from the United Farm Workers, and serves as a physical manifestation the concept of unity within the community.

For more info on the Homie’s Empowerment Dinners: homiesempowerment@gmail.com

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