Oakland non-profit fighting violence with bikes

February 10, 2012 12:00:00 AM PST
Oakland's chief of police says his city has seen 20 shootings in just the past week and the department is reaching out to the community for help. One West Oakland group is answering that call and trying to break the pattern of violence with pedal power.

"Bikes4Life" is celebrating two years serving the West Oakland community. It is the only bike shop in the area and it is also a place where at-risk young men and women learn to do hands-on work. The shop is also the home of a non-profit called "One Fam," short for "family."

"We like to try to reach the young folks, build a community, build dialog, and also teach them conflict resolution skills. There are better ways to handle these conflicts," Tony Coleman says. He founded One Fam in 2000. The bike shop has been around for only two years. All the bikes are used, bought at auctions or donated. After some repairs, they are sold. It is a way to gain employment skills while incorporating the anti-violence message. "We were in the community and we were doing a lot of events, and biking was an event that folks were taking on as a subculture. So, we moved with the community," Coleman explains.

Over the past two years, more than 50 troubled youths have been trained. Over the summer, it is one of the mayor's summer job sites. The city pays the youth directly. Dominque Keith-Maher works a few hours a week helping fundraise for the non-profit. The Richmond native went to One Fam after dropping out of Howard University. "It gave me a more meaningful life. I didn't really have a meaning for a moment," she says. "Being here made me value life." She plans to go back to college in the fall.

"We don't have to blame anybody for our problems. We can solve them ourselves. We want to teach leadership development. We want the kids to have confidence and to have the audacity to change the world," Colemans says.

The organization is always looking for donations, but on Saturday, they themselves will be donating 40 bikes kids in West Oakland.


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