April 23, 2014

Family First Crisis Response Team

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“After Oscar was killed, the family had no idea what to do,” said Cephus “Uncle Bobby” Johnson, one of the founders of the new Oscar Grant Foundation and the uncle of Oscar Grant, the young man shot and killed by a BART police officer Johannes Mehserle on Jan. 1, 2009. “We had to learn so many things about what to do, who to talk to and it was overwhelming.”

Three years later, Johnson, a Silicon Valley systems engineer, and his wife, “Sister Beatrice,”  are ready to seek more funding for the Oscar Grant Foundation. Rather than being a grant-making organization, the new foundation was formed in August 2011  with the goal of making Johnson, his wife and their network of experts a resource for others whose children are shot and killed by police.

“We want to set up a Family First Crisis Response Team that can counsel and comfort families who have been through this kind of traumatic event,” Johnson said. “There isn’t enough support for the emotional injuries police gun violence can cause a family.”

Since forming the idea for the foundation,  Johnson and his wife have been putting the idea into practice, traveling to Sanford, Fla., to stand with the family of Trayvon Martin  – the 17-year-old teen shot to death by George Zimmerman, 28, a volunteer neighborhood watch captain. Later, Johnson was invited by Martin’s family to go to West Angeles North Campus on 3045 Crenshaw Blvd, Los Angeles CA to speak there at an event along with The Martin family, Jesse Jackson, Al Sharpton and Pastor Jamal Bryant and special guest speaker David Banner will take the stage. Read more: http://globalgrind.com/news/trayvon-martin-rally-los-angeles-details

“When there is this kind of killing, there is so much going on,” Beatrice Johnson explained. “We want to help provide advice on where to get legal help, holding a vigil and link families with services that can help them.”

Although BART came to a settlement with Grant’s mother and one with his daughter, the Oscar Grant Foundation is not being funded directly by these funds. To date, the foundation has been supported by Johnson and his wife, as well as by donations from the community, including those by Wanda Johnson, Oscar Grant’s mother and Cephus Johnson’s sister. 

However, everyone involved recognizes that to supply more services, they need funding to scale up. In 2013, the foundation plans to bring on a more active Board of Directors and hold its first annual fundraiser – a event meant to raise funds to support a first responders team for families whose children are shot and killed by police.

“There is a definite need for services to help families navigator the legal system and the media after police violence,” said Cat Brooks, one of the founders of the ONYX organizing committee, one of Oakland’s social justice activist groups that has been focused on police and youth violence since Grant’s murder four years ago. “It’s a sad commentary on the state of America that we have this need, but we do.”

For now, Johnson is focusing on setting up the foundation, bringing on a Board of Directors. By March 2013, he said he hopes to have the basic infrastructure up and running, with the foundation’s first board meeting in April 2013. 

“Police brutality is not only an issue around social justice and reform, it’s a very personal issue for families whose children are shot and killed,” Johnson said. “We want to provide assistance to victims of police violence and their families, and funding this foundation is the next step.”

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