Interview: Nonprofit leader speaks on how to address youth violence in Sacramento


SACRAMENTO, Calif. (KTXL) — Tuesday, loved ones of Sa’Quan Reed-James and Dewayne James Jr. formed a car caravan all the way to the airport, honoring the young men killed almost three weeks ago at Arden Fair Mall as their bodies were flown to Louisiana for burial.

The loss of these teenage brothers at the hands of a young gunman not only devastated their family but has left a community raw with anger and sadness.

No children were killed in Sacramento in 2018 and 2019, but so far this year, four young people have been killed.

Just before the brothers were killed, Mayor Darrell Steinberg pledged to spend $3 million in city funds for mentoring programs to prevent violence among 12- to 17-year-olds.

“It helps, because it definitely allows resources to be placed into the community that wouldn’t be there otherwise,” said Leia Schenk, founder of the nonprofit activist group Empact.

But she added that the pandemic has limited resources on what community organizers can do to help children in need, such as after-school programs and other events.

“The children are carrying the burden and the weight of everything that is going on in the household right now,” Schenk continued.

At the vigil of Sa’Quan Reed-James and Dewayne James Jr., Schenk and other advocates called out others in the local activism community for taking advantage of some of these tragedies just to get money.

“The point is all of us have a role … It takes a village,” Schenk said. “We’re all responsible.”

As for what the city needs to do, Schenk said leaders need to put Black and brown advocates in “a position to be of help in this community.”

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