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United against violence

Event uses fun and games to address two community threats: violence and COVID-19

on October 17, 2021

Pastor Cheryl Ward has been working with young children for many years and recently added teens to her ministry. So it seemed fitting for her to bring youth and their families together on Sunday for an event meant to confront two threats: violence and COVID-19.

At Liberation Park on Sunday, she and the Black Cultural Zone organized “United Against Violence and COVID-19 in Oakland,” an event that she hopes is the first of four. 

“Kids are always saying that they don’t have any place to go or anything to do,” Ward said. “We shifted the trajectory in that.  Yes, you do, here.” 

About 100 people spent a chilly autumn day at the park, playing games, socializing and — for some — getting vaccinated against the coronavirus. 

Tisha Hernandez, a mother of two, had been reluctant to get the shot, but plunged ahead with it at the event. She remains unsure, though, about whether to let her kids get the vaccine.

“Since these are my seeds, I just don’t know,” she said. “Based off of that, I’m waiting for me to see how I respond to it. But I feel like it’s like our other immunization injections. And hopefully, everybody else sees it like that.” 

According to Alameda County Health Services, vaccination rates in East and West Oakland are 10% to 20% lower than in North and Downtown Oakland.

Last month, the Oakland Unified School District mandated coronavirus vaccines for all students, beginning in January. The vote preceded Gov. Gavin Newsom’s announcement that school children across the state will be required to be vaccinated.

United against violence
Museum of Children’s Art giving away free books at “United Against Violence and COVID-19 in Oakland.” (Isaac Ceja)

Alma Galindo, a staff member for Cheryl Ward Ministries, has been involved in community outreach since 2016. Ever since the pandemic, she’s been trying to focus on the community in East Oakland. 

“We do a lot, and mainly right now, we’re trying to reach the youth, trying to get them to come out and get vaccinated, get tested,” Galindo said.

The event also tried to combat the threat of violence that has hung over the city this year, leading to an alarming number of homicides. To that end, Ward invited Joe Henry, who was born and raised in Oakland, to run a basketball activity that kids flocked to. 

“You know, if you was born and raised here, you got morals and values,” Henry said. “So we’re out here trying to show the new generation that we can come together no matter what’s going on in the world. I don’t care what gender you are, what color, what race, anything. Ethnic background doesn’t matter.

United against violence
Families enjoy fun and games at Liberation Park for the “United Against Violence and COVID-19 in Oakland” event. (Isaac Ceja)

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