Late Night Live program will give kids a safe place to gather after dark
on June 9, 2011
Oakland mayor Jean Quan announced on Thursday morning that as an effort to reduce crimes that involve Oakland students, a group of organizations will open their doors to kids until midnight on Fridays and Saturdays.
“This is in response to almost a decade of tragic youth violence,” said Oakland Unified School District Superintendent Tony Smith during Thursday’s press conference in front of McClymonds High School in West Oakland. According to a presentation provided by OUSD police chief Pete Sarna, most of the homicides and shootings involving students during the past ten years occurred late on Friday and Saturday nights.
“Kids always say that there’s nothing for us to do in the neighborhood,” said Quan. “In some parts of town that’s absolutely true. There’re no fun and safe things for kids to do.” Quan hopes that after school programs would provide the students a safe alternative to wandering on the streets late at night, therefore reducing their chances of becoming victims of violent crimes.
The initial partners of the program, called Late Night Live, include a number of non-profit organizations and recreation centers. Activities they will offer range from sports to music performance and computer classes as well as digital media arts training. McClymonds High School’s gym and the Rainbow Recreation Center in East Oakland will open first this weekend, where kids can play basketball and indoor soccer from 8 pm to midnight. Other partners, such as the East Oakland Youth Development Center and the 81st Avenue Library will open next. New supporters are also welcome to join the program. Quan said a Facebook page of the program will be launched soon where announcements of new activities will be posted.
Ryan Peters, executive director of Youth Movement Records, a non-profit that helps young people develop their artistic talents, said as a part of Late Night Live, the organization will host an eight-week, American-Idol-style music competition that will introduce the teens to the business of the music industry. “The competition will end at the Art and Soul Festival where one young person will have the opportunity to perform on the main stage on the last day,” Peters said. The location for the competition has not been named yet, said OUSD spokesperson Troy Flint.
Olympic boxing champion and Bay Area resident Andre Ward was a special guest at the press conference. “Nobody can say Oakland is not trying [to reduce youth crimes],” Ward said. “If one child can be saved and directed in the right way, this [program] is a success.” Ward said he hopes to meet and speak with the students participating the program to encourage them to achieve their own successes.
When asked by reporters if there are measures to make sure that students can go home safely after taking part in the activities, Quan said there will be an increased police presence at the bus stops near the event venues and adult social workers may be mobilized to ensure the safety of the students.
“Hopefully they will be going home [after the activities],” Quan said, adding that based on her previous experience, “we don’t seem to have a problem.”
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