Austin resident Aisha Oliver, 37, attended the Chicago Police Department’s 15th District Strategic Plan meeting and spoke about her concerns and direct involvement in the community.
On why she attended the meeting
As a long-time resident working with young people in the community, we’ve had some unfortunate incidents with area officers that have greatly impacted the young men that I work with. We target young black men ages 14 to 21. I want to make sure that, when we’re talking about strategic planning we are integrating their personal experiences in the plans that the community has.
On her foundation
I work with young people and we are a part of Root 2 Fruit Youth Foundation. We started an initiative called ASAP (Austin Safety Action Plan) two years ago as a response to what we felt safety looks like through those young people’s lens.
I run the Root 2 Fruit Youth Foundation that I started here in Austin in 2009. The young people are the third generation of men that I have in my group right now. I met them when they were 9 and 10 years old and now they’re 19 and 20 years old. We believe in village-building initiatives, which means that we believe in a family aspect – not so much programming. We don’t use the word program, we use the word initiative. Their goal is to learn everything that I can teach them, in order for me to pass the mantle. My goal is to make Root 2 Fruit sustainable so that I can pass it on to them [the youth].
ASAP was organically made in my living room and we don’t have a space like larger organizations. This was me being a resident and being like a mom in this neighborhood and being able to gain the trust of the young people that I see every day. I want to have a direct impact on them.
In my home, we do something called breaking bread. I cook a meal, we have a conversation, and it’s a no-judgment zone so that they are able to voice how they feel about what they see about what’s going on in their home lives.
Collectively, we leave it on the floor but figure out what are their next action steps so that we are not running on a hamster wheel. Teaching them that they don’t have to settle for what they see. It’s so much bigger than this. I was trying to convey this in the meeting tonight.
We’ve been doing it for two years and have data showing that we have decreased violence in our particular safe zone, so I wanted to make sure the police were aware of the work that we’ve already done.