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Persevering in the Face of Charleston Tragedy

Reflections from Judy Belk, June 24, 2015

I’ve spent the past week mourning the loss of nine lives in Charleston, South Carolina, last Wednesday and trying to grapple with the horrific nature of this act, carried out in a place of worship that has been central to the struggles of the black community there. As the leader of a health foundation that has prioritized the prevention of gun violence in California for more than two decades, I’ve heard countless stories of the devastation these types of violent acts inflict upon families, neighborhoods and communities. And as someone who lost a sister to gun violence, I’m all too aware of the trauma and emotional toll experienced by loved ones left behind to grieve.

While the causes and motivations vary from incident to incident, the fact remains that communities of color are disproportionately impacted by gun violence. As President Obama noted in his response to the shooting, “… someone who wanted to inflict harm had no trouble getting their hands on a gun.” While officials in Washington may be unwilling to address this issue, states and cities around the country are taking action. In California, a new measure will allow family members and law enforcement officers to seek a Gun Violence Restraining Order against people who pose a threat to themselves or others. Family members will have the legal means to intervene when they sense a danger. This measure was passed in the wake of a shooting that claimed six lives and injured 14 in Isla Vista and will take effect next year.

In the face of tragedy, I try to focus on these types of efforts that give us hope for the future. I’m proud of the work our grantees do every day to counter violence in their communities. At Cal Wellness, we will continue to fund work that tries to break the cycle of violence and improve the health of low-income communities of color.


Judy Belk
President and CEO

How You Can Help:

Mother Emanuel Hope Fund

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