July 9 2018

As the heat rises up in temperature so does the crime. It’s a saying that I hear from young people every summer. And in South Sacramento like in any other low income community the rise in crime has been increasing with no end in sight. Over the last few months we have witnessed many of our sisters and brothers die in the arms of violence and in the arms of law enforcement. With all these policies that are in place to actually hurt people of color I find myself wondering who will be the next Stephon Clark or who will be the next victim that I will be forced to read about on my social media feed?

Luckily, I live in a neighborhood where a lot of things are changing. For the past 7 years the Sacramento Building Healthy Communities initiative has been in place and has helped reduce some of the most historic health disparities that we have faced as a state. But I asked myself how does poverty, crime and disenfranchisement lead to poorer health outcomes? Other organizations like the Black Child Legacy Campaign are wondering the same thing. Last year this campaign, established a Steering Committee on Reduction of African American Child Deaths focused on reducing deaths of African American children by 10% by 2020 in Sacramento County. The Black Child Legacy Campaign began its work in my neighborhood and the Sacramento BHC office was picked as a BCLC-CIL site host to cover the neighborhoods of Fruitridge/Stockton, which is known as a low-income, high crime and underserved community.

Residents affiliated with the Black Child Legacy Campaign conduct a Healing Walk to help reduce deaths of African American children.

In Sacramento County, African American children die at twice the rate of any other ethnicity. The four leading causes of death are perinatal conditions, infant sleep-related deaths, child abuse and neglect and third party homicides. As BCLC began its work we also began to see the rise in third party homicides; not only affecting African American children, but also affecting the entire community and leaving us unsure of how to heal from all the violence.

Tragedy in our low-income communities has become a norm, an everyday scenario that is dealt with on a regular basis without any attention to healing. Our BCLC Project Coordinator Alex White and other community partners decided they wanted to host Healing Walks.

Alex is a resident of this community and knows first-hand the trauma and the resilience that our community has endured and she also has ideas about how to heal the community. In one of the BCLC CIL monthly meetings Alex and other community members, introduced the idea of a “Healing Walk” which was going to be composed of the following: Gathering all of our BCLC partners and supporters to join us every month and pick a neighborhood in our BCLC/BHC community to walk in peace and have conversations with its residents, asking them how they would like to see their communities improved and also to provide them with resources and information about our two initiatives.

“Most of our residents just want to be able to talk and have someone listen to their story,” states Alex. The Healing Walks have allowed us to meet residents who want to share their personal stories and find it difficult because of the norm they have become accustomed to. “Crime happens here often” “and it’s just our environment.” BHC in partnership with BCLC is helping to change the norm in this community.

Our Healing Walks are the first step in making sure that our residents understand they are valued members and that many organizations are here to lend a hand. Our walks offer a way to connect with community members in a simple and straightforward way while getting us out of our offices and into the neighborhoods we are serving.

If you’d like to learn more about Healing Walks, please contact Alberto Mercado at alberto@sacbhc.org.

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