OP-ED: Front Street

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By Min. Ron Linzie

Editor’s note: Ron Linzie was the co-founder of the Broadway Hustlers, the AC Mob and a former Acorn gang leader. He is now an ordained street minister with an anti-violence message. He leads ministers and volunteers with regular community walks and talks to calm the streets. Linzie, known as “Poison” on the streets, is renewing his “Front Street” column that focused on how some gangsters have turned to God. “We are walking to and fro, through the streets of Oakland, looking for those who will help bring justice to the streets of this great city.”

When I read Richard Johnson’s letters from his Folsom prison cell, I am reminded of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.’s letters from a Birmingham Jail. Both men pricked our consciences to do something about the problems of our society.

Johnson was known as “Razor” to many of us when we operated under the “radar of public attention” on the streets of Oakland and now his letters are being widely circulated by former gang members, fathers and mothers who want their sons and daughters to do the right thing. His letters are sharply cutting through to the truth.

Johnson’s letters are being hailed because he has street credibility. And when his words are given, people are inclined to listen.

His vision of a family-oriented community is profound. Mr. Johnson spoke on rehabilitation within ourselves, for the prison system isn’t designed for rehabilitation of our young men and women.

When he wrote, “If we can change the plan, we can then change the man,” he is causing churches and social service community workers to rethink their ways in reaching our youth.

If all of the “Black Lives Matter” pledges and marches are going to mean anything, then we must listen to Johnson’s advice on how we should mentor and guide our youth. We must continue to work to make sure education remains a focus as well as create jobs.

We can’t continue being in the huddle and not in the game. All lives matter. We as parents must not continue sitting on a stool in a corner, we must answer the bell of responsibility and accountability.

The fight is on! Lives are at stake! We must all become mentors for our young people. We as fathers, mothers, educators and leaders all know someone that’s confined behind some wall.

Our faith and hope also belongs to them. Mr. Johnson spoke of his faith in God and I truly agree with him, “Faith and optimism is comforting.”

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