Focus On Solutions

Arts, empowerment help fight violence

Friday, June 19, 2009

Sometimes fighting violence requires a soft touch. For 20 years, one organization has tried to end youth violence in Oakland through the arts and empowering kids. Destiny Arts Center is changing lives and a community.

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Oakland is a city that struggles with violence.

Destiny Arts Center is a place helping shield kids from these uncertain times. Their violence prevention message is the core of the program.

Students initially come here for the martial arts and dance programs.

"They get excited by the hip hop dance, the modern dance which is what I taught at the time," said Destiny Arts Center Artistic Director Sarah Crowell.

The goal is to combine these activities with the center's unique curriculum known as 'the five fingers of violence prevention.'

They include:

  • Use your head.
  • Use your mouth.
  • Use your feet.
  • Use your fighting skills (only if you have to)
  • Tell somebody what happened.

    "You can see if anybody has any negative energy so you can walk away from them," said Destiny participant Felicia Payomo.

    "Get the heck out if you need to. Use your fighting skills but only if you have to," said Crowell..

    "Not to beat someone down but more as a defense mechanism for you to get yourself in a better place," said Destiny participant Macio Payomo.

    And the last one is tell somebody.

    "If you hold it all in, it's going to shut you down," said Crowell.

    According to Crowell, their program is successfully working to prevent violence.

    "Eight percent of our kids are saying self reporting that they are using their skills on a day to day basis," said Crowell.

    The program has been so successful that 22 public schools in Oakland now feature their work. From pre-schools to high schools, students are learning the five fingers of violence prevention.

    The majority of the kids are here thanks to the support of several Bay Area foundations.

    "The little kids mediate, you will see and feel and experience the young people finding their voice," said Louie-Badua from the Shinnyo-En Foundation.

    "Because they are around adults who are really living a peaceful way, they are being peace as a result the kids pick that up," said Maura Wolf from the Shinnyo-En Foundation.

    "It kind of parallels the way I express myself in life. If I gain confidence in dance, I gain confidence in life and that is how it goes," said Destiny participant Ellen Kobori.

    For Nini Franklin Destiny has been a life altering experience.

    "It stops me from being out on the streets and doing ignorant things," said Franklin.

    While certain parts of Oakland may resemble a war zone, Destiny Arts is creating an army of peace warriors.

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