Funeral for slain mother, daughter prompts soul-searching
By Kamika Dunlap
Article Last Updated: 09/12/2008 09:02:59 AM PDT
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Joe Robertson, boyfriend of Kennah Wilson and father of her unborn child, puts his head down in...
OAKLAND — Kennah Wilson was laid to rest in a white casket adorned with pink roses. Her daughter, Kamilah Robinson, was swaddled in a pink blanket at her side.
The funeral, which attracted more than 400 people to Good Hope Missionary Baptist Church on Thursday, was not just about saying goodbye to Wilson and her baby. It was also an occasion for collective soul-searching on how to end the violence gripping the community.
"Don't let Kennah's life or this tragedy be in vain," said Bishop Bob Jackson, senior pastor of Acts Full Gospel Church. "This kind of violence must stop in our city.
The politicians can't stop it. The police can't stop it. We have to stop it ourselves."
Wilson, 18, was seven months
pregnant when gunmen opened fire on her Aug. 29 while she was standing with a group of about 30 other people in front of an apartment building at MacArthur Boulevard and 82nd Avenue in East Oakland.
Wilson was killed. Four other people, including two 15-year-olds, were wounded in the same incident.
Kamilah was delivered by Cesarean section and lived for 31 minutes before she also died at Highland Hospital.
Young men and women proceeded into the funeral wearing T-shirts with Wilson's pictures and glitter-stripped writing reading "Rest in Paradise." The funeral program was decorated with a collage of family photos, including Wilson posing with her 19-year-old boyfriend, Joe Robinson, the father of her child.
those in attendance didn't know Wilson, but were touched by her story. Jackson, for instance, attended the funeral and represented the Pastors of Oakland, a group of more than 40 ministers who work together on community issues and concerns. No prominent city officials attended the service.
Robinson and Wilson's mother, Donna Irving, came to the young woman's aid that night when bullets suddenly struck Wilson in the chest and side. Robinson's brother also was shot twice in the chest during the incident and was transported and later released from Highland, relatives said.
Doctors and emergency staff worked furiously to save Wilson's baby.
Madihah Al-Mustafa of Oakland was part of the trauma team that worked on Wilson that night. Her son, Kenny James, was paralyzed after being shot in 2003. He died in 2006.
"All of us held our breath as we prayed and hoped this sweet innocent baby girl with a full head of black hair would survive," Al-Mustafa said in an e-mail. "I deal with this every single day. In these young people, I watch my son die each day, over and over."
One 14-year-old girl said she and her two friends came to the funeral because they were all friends with Wilson.
"It's crazy when it (the shootings) happens, but you never know when it's going to happen," she said.
Robinson and Wilson dated for two years. When she became pregnant, they planned to move away from the crime-ridden neighborhood.
The five apartment buildings at 82nd and MacArthur have been the site this year of several street shootings of young people under 25.
Oakland Councilmember Larry Reid (Elmhurst-East Oakland) met recently with Mayor Ron Dellums and officials from code enforcement, the city attorney's office, the police department, parole and probation and the housing authority to address the crime problems that have occurred in front of five buildings in the area.
Reid said he plans to organize a community meeting in the next couple of weeks to address safety concerns and solutions.
However, people at the funeral said they are fed up with talk and meetings and want to see action. They are calling on church leaders, the local NAACP, former Black Panther Party members, and other activists to address the violence.
"It's a power struggle," said Otis Duckett, 29, of Oakland. "We have a war but it's with our own people. It's a shame."
Duckett did not know Wilson but felt compelled to attend the funeral because of the rash of recent killings at 82nd and MacArthur.
Since Wilson's death, police have increased patrols in the neighborhood. In addition, the city has deployed a team of street outreach workers on nights and weekends to try to diffuse potentially violent situations.
Wilson's relatives say that they will remember how excited she was about becoming a new mother. They said they don't want her memory to be reduced to "just another face on a T-shirt."
Police and Crime Stoppers of Oakland are offering up to $40,000 in reward money for information leading to the arrest of Wilson's killers. Anyone with information can call Oakland police at 510-238-3326 or Crime Stoppers at 510-777-8572 or 510-777-3211.