When it’s rooted in a community, the media can be a powerful tool for change. Here’s one example from San Francisco:
DJ Kevin Nash: This is KMEL Street Soldiers. Hi, who’s this?
Eric: This is Eric
Margaret Norris: How are you doing, Eric?
Eric: I’m alright, I’m living.
Margaret: Tell us about it.
Eric: Last Monday I lost my brother. He was shot four times in the head, two times in the chest. It’s hard on me. It’s like I’m living it every day. I can feel the shots he’s taking …
Margaret: We hear you, Eric.
Eric: Last night I ran into the guy that killed him and we got into a big argument, a commotion. He pulled his gun on me; I pulled my gun on him. He aimed at me, I aimed at him. Fully cocked no safety, nothing, ready to go . . the only thing that stopped me . . . I put my gun back in my pocket and walked away. The only thing that stopped me was my brother.
Margaret: You know you really did a courageous thing by putting that gun back.
Joseph Marshall: I was thinking about your mom. She almost lost . . .
Eric: Another son.
Joseph: That’s what I was thinking.
Margaret: When you walked away, what did he do?
Eric: He didn’t do nothing but just kept telling me, ‘You’re a punk, you’re a coward.’
Margaret: Eric remember, like we said it’s one day at a time, One day at a time. You’ve made it through some pretty treacherous days. You’ve got to make it through tomorrow. We got your number Eric. We’re going to call tomorrow, right?
Eric: I want to come to the club.
Joseph: Yeah, we want to get you up to the club.
RADIO WAVE PARENTING
Since 1991, San Francisco’s Street Soldiers radio show has been diffusing gang violence and acting as a surrogate parent for kids who need someone to listen. Started as an outlet for gang members and drug dealers, the program’s audience has grown to 200,000 listeners in the Bay area, and includes those affected by the street wars, including the families of gang members.
High school teachers Margaret Norris and Joseph Marshall host the call-in show Monday evenings to early Tuesday morning. Citing optimism as their key to success, Marshall says, "We’ve got a tremendous faith in people. And the kids, we’ve got an enormous faith in them."
"We make our kids a priority," Norris says. "We live the proverb, ‘It takes an entire village to raise a child.’ We become family to our young people."
Another factor in the success of the show is that the support doesn’t end when callers hang up the phone. Many kids who listen to Street Soldiers wind up at Omega Boys Club of San Francisco where Marshall, co-founder and director of Omega, and Norris, the club’s academic director, provide the caring follow-through that so many kids are missing in their family lives.
The kids see Norris and Marshall as the mother and father of Omega, with what one club member calls their "nice, but stern outlook."
At Omega, kids get help preparing for college, job training, peer counseling, and violence-prevention training.
Since opening its doors in 1987, Omega has sent more than 110 young people to college on scholarships that include support beyond tuition for transportation and living expenses.
"The successes of Street Soldiers and Omega prove that violence can be stopped, children’s lives can be spared, and communities can be made safer," Norris says. "But only if we as individuals are willing to devote the time, energy, and the personal resources to making it happen."