A Plight and a Plea -Our September 26th Gala Fundraiser
August 26, 2013 - With 9 homicides in the past 3
weeks, and nearly 70 so far this year, Marilyn Harris, as usual, is
too busy helping the families of the killed to raise funds for the
non-violence foundation she works through. This year alone, she has comforted and guided the families of 8-year-old Alaysha Carradine, 16-month-old Drew Jackson, and dozens of lesser-known homicide victims in Oakland. I'm on the board and I can
hardly get in touch with her these days. That's okay, I don't want to interrupt
her work. All of her energy needs to be spent on her clients, or even
occasionally on her own needs.
This is not the way Marilyn would talk. She certainly wouldn't talk about herself. But she will talk about her work and especially the plight of her clients and what they need in the crushing, insane days after a husband or son or daughter or mother has died violently in Oakland. They need attention, love, clarity, guidance, information and a knowing ear. They need protection from exploitation, they need a friend, an advocate. When these sudden, dire needs go unmet, things go from bad to worse, and the long dark path back to life, work, family, back to the community, gets far longer and far darker, even endless. The city loses not just that person who was killed, but also it loses the survivors in their lasting grief and unhealed bitterness.
Marilyn Harris has been helping survivors through the muck for 12 years now, pretty much ever since she became one herself, when her only son, Khadafy Washington, was murdered in Oakland in 2000, and there was no one to guide her. She gets some funding from the city, a small amount. She gets help from the venerable Oakland non-profit Youth Alive. But hers is now and always has been a nearly solitary shoestring operation out of donated space with out-dated equipment in the Acorn.
but Khadafy's spirit lives on
Sunday August 4th, 2013 marks the 13th anniversary of the shooting death of Khadafy Washington on the campus of McClymonds High School in West Oakland. Khadafy was 18. He had graduated just two months earlier. He was riding his bike that night. He died quickly, but his family's pain and struggle were only just beginning.
Thirteen years later Khadafy's mom, Marilyn Washington Harris, and the Khadafy Washington Foundation for Non-Violence continue to support thousands of survivors of the well-over 1500 people killed in Oakland since that fateful night in 2000.
Miss Marilyn started by conceiving billboards, 19 of them, which were distributed about the city, with Khadafy's picture and the blaring question: Do You Know Who Killed Me? They were a stark reminder to a city sometimes in denial that too many of its young men were dying violent deaths. Soon she was organizing marches to bring attention to Oakland's problem with violence, and to the lasting pain families of victims endure. Privately, she would reach out to individual families in the immediate aftermath of a homicide, sending them mementos and reminders that they were not forgotten.
Then she began seeking them out at their homes, the hospital, even at crime scenes, taking them by the hand to guide them through the craziness that descends on a family in the days and weeks after a loved-one's sudden, violent death. She protected them from exploitation, scraped up funds for the mostly poor families so that they could bury their dead with dignity and grace, and continued to counsel and care for them as they tried to get back to life. Today, as the violence persists, Khadafy's mom is Oakland's primary crisis responder.
Through the life and growth of the foundation named in his memory, we like to think that Khadafy still lives and grows, and that it's his spirit reaching out to the survivors of Oakland's killed, those living victims of homicide, that it is Khadafy's spirit helping them begin the long process of healing, of finding some kind of peace and love in their lives and their city. Thirteen years after his death, his spirit is alive and well and fighting for Oakland.
"I was devastated. He was a good kid. He did all the things a parent would want a child to do."
-- Marilyn Washington Harris
If your friend or family member was recently killed, please call us at (510) 839-1706 so we can assist you through this difficult time.