When A Community Leader Is Falsely Arrested
When San Francisco Police officers falsely arrested 19 year old Latina superstar Elvira Zayas, they didn't realize how much community would come in force in efforts to support her release. While the trial continues, so does the support from the community of artists, community leaders, and caring members who fight for her arrival home.
Two months ago in July, the Huffington Post released an article on the rise of shootings in The Mission District of San Francisco. Mayor Lee stated; "The month of June in San Francisco experienced a spike in shootings and homicides in our southeast neighborhoods,"
Lee said in a statement concerning the gang injunction saftey zones. "This is unacceptable and while I take this issue extremely seriously, I want to be clear that I have not considered implementing a policy in San Francisco that would violate anyone's constitutional rights or that would result in racial profiling. I have stated that I am willing to look at what other cities are doing to reduce gun violence, including cities like New York and Philadelphia that both have stop and frisk programs."
August 29, 2012 In one of those safety zones a fight broke out and 3 people were arrested on gang charges. One of those arrested, was the daughter of Elvira Zayas sr. who shares the same name as her daughter. After visiting with her in jail, younger Elvira hands her mother a posted note with names and organizations. One of the names, Erika of Youth Speaks. Zayas Sr. walks into a staff meeting where she finds Erika Cespedes. Cespedes, a poet/and youth program coordinator for Youth Speaks who've worked with Elvira during the summer in a writing program puts out a call on facebook for any legal help and local community organizers to support the release of Elvira.
3 weeks later with Elvira still in custody, the preliminary hearing begins. Outside young organizers gather in front of the county courthouse. Two of the most serious charges are dropped. The only one that remains is "the participation in a gang" charge.
Erika Cespedes speaking the to crowd of supporters outside of the courthouse.
Doña Elvira walking into the courthouse to watch the first preliminary hearing for Elvira.
B.Cole, Executive Director of the national leadership development program "Brown Boi Project" worked with Elvira 2 years ago , as she was selected for the high school cohort of leaders for the Bay Area said;
"Elvira was an incredible force even then. She sat in circles with leaders doing community organizing internationally, helping them to strategize how to engage Americans in support of their work abroad as donors and activists. She was a leader among our group of youth with insights and an understanding of herself, that is remarkable in someone so young. She is gentle, thoughtful, and willing to take risks to support others in ways that few people of her age (or older) learn to do. She is bright with a tremendous life ahead of her; one in which she will inspire people just as much for who she is—as the road she has traveled to get there. I know that every day Elvira has to summon up incredible courage to stay out of the violence that surrounds her in her community."
Taken backstage of Elvira night of the show "Stories of The Queer Diaspora".*
It is an unfortunate situation but it may only seem that when our black and brown youth are able to get recognized is when the court needs to figure out whether they are guilty of a gang or not. Like Elvira, a young brown Latina growing up in the Mission there are 2 inescapable realities that she must face, whether inside a jail cell or on the Mission Streets, as B.Cole says "summon the incredible courage to stay out of the violence that surrounds her community" from the police, to her community. A change that she has been striving to work for through her activism and poetry.
Currently the case is still in process with the last charge standing.
This article was first published by Silicon Valley De-Bug.
Jean Melesaine is a photographer and videographer for SV De-Bug.
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