A Note on Violence Affecting Bay Area Youth

By Juan Taizan

health-center-graffiti-450In the last two weeks three young men have been murdered in Richmond in the Bay Area. Xavier Mclanahan, 14, Malik Barnes, 15, and Joshmahl Russell, 21, were all shot to death, their lives ending far too soon.

While we did not know these young men directly, they were a part of our community through the school-based health centers and partners we know in Richmond. Their deaths also touch a nerve because of our work to support young men of color who have experienced violence.

I can’t help but feel frustration as I struggle with the question of what more any of us could have done to prevent these tragedies. It also makes me feel overwhelmed at how much more work we have to do to prevent future violence and death. It is important for us to take some time to pause, to reflect on the lives of these young men, to understand the pain of their loss, to feel the joy they brought to their friends and families, and to envision the lives they could have lived if they had more support and opportunity.

It is important that we take all of our feelings and remember this is why we do our work. School health staff regularly support young men and women who face the same challenges of Xavier, Malik, and Joshmahl. SBHCs and school health services play an important role in not only helping youth be healthy and succeed; they help many youth stay alive.

We have to continue to advocate for school health. We have to continue to find resources to help every young person who needs support. We have to continue working to honor the lives of every young person we have lost and to honor Xavier, Malik, and Joshmahl.

You can read more about Juan’s experiences helping students and schools through school-based health on the CSBA blog: Invest in Health to Improve School Climate & Student Engagement (Omar’s Story).