On a beautiful day at Lake Merritt, it is customary to see people taking in the scenery and walking around the lake as part of their daily routine. The morning of October 3, however, was more than your average sunny day. There were poets, musicians and others cheering on about 100 people who walked the perimeter of the lake to spread the message that enough is enough when it comes to domestic violence.
A Safe Place, Oakland’s only comprehensive domestic violence program for battered women and children, held its 8th annual Walk-A-Thon fundraiser, October 3 at Lake Merritt. A Safe Place provides a 24-hour crisis line, emergency shelter, community counseling, support groups, community and education outreach, and a teenage violence prevention program.
Walkers paid $10 to participate, then had sponsors pledge a flat-rate or hourly donation for them to complete a full walk around Lake Merritt.
Among those who walked were two Mills juniors, Miranda Gardiner and Alex Cruz, both of whom are members of the Institute for Civic Leadership (ICL), a two-semester program at Mills that focuses on leadership development and social justice.
After a friend’s mentor in ICL told Gardiner about A Safe Place, she chose to work there for her community service project, because of her dedication to helping women in need.
As a part of this project, Gardiner raised awareness about the walk by holding a food drive on campus, and set up a table next to the Tea Shop to recruit students to sponsor her or walk themselves.
But aside from the Walk-a-thon being part of her community service project for ICL, the walk had personal significance for Gardiner. She walked because she is a survivor herself.
“I want to make sure people are able to come forward, because there is so much silence around it,” she said.
Gardiner had 12 sponsors comprised of students and faculty, and raised approximately $115. She hopes that next year more members of the Mills community will participate in the Walk-A-Thon.
Even after the Walk, Gardiner will continue to work towards ending domestic and teen dating violence. She is taking a 40-hour training, as required by state law, to work with victims of domestic violence and next semester she will volunteer on-site at A Safe Place. She also mentors students at Castlemont Business and Information Technology School, a high school in East Oakland. She hopes to incorporate domestic and teenage dating violence education and support into her youth mentorship.
“This is very close to my heart. I want to make sure that women get a voice and help when it’s needed,” said Gardiner.
Cruz did not walk as part of her ICL community service requirement, but simply wanted to show support for those impacted by violence. She did not look for sponsors, but instead paid the $10 requirement to walk, and showed solidarity through her participation in the event. She views the Walk-A-Thon as another way she can help others.
“I’m here because I believe that showing other people you hear their wails is how you show community support,” said Cruz , who has a history of civic involvement.
Other walkers from the greater Oakland community walked because some form of violence had impacted their lives.
“I’m running for my aunt, Geraldine Burgin, who got shot at her job at Safeway,” said Oakland resident Kyla Brown.
Another resident of the city, Cassandra Weatherby, participated after a member of her church was fatally shot, allegedly by her boyfriend, at her job as a Richmond-San Rafael Bridge toll-taker.
“I came to support A Safe Place, because there is less funding [for domestic violence programs]. I was moved by it,” said Weatherby.
To learn how to volunteer or donate to A Safe Place please contact Gardiner at firstname.lastname@example.org or call A Safe Place’s business line at 510-986-8600.