OAKLAND (KRON) — Back in middle school — now 18-year-old Oakland native and youth pastor Romero Wesson joined the OK Program.
“And, before that time I didn’t know what I wanted to do with my life,” Wesson said.
He was recruited to the Oakland-based non-profit, by now-retired Sacramento County Deputy Sheriff Donald Northcross.
Northcross founded the organization in 1990.
“There’s not another program in the country that commits to black police officers working full-time, with black boys and men,” he said.
And that is OK’s mission — teaming black men with young black boys 12 to 18 years old.
Helping them develop leadership skills, find success in the classroom, and stay out of jail.
“In order to raise a boy to be a man, you need a man in the equation to help do it,” Chairman Bob Jackson said. “And this is what the program brings.”
Oakland Police Chief Anne Kirkpatrick was invited to speak at the program’s fundraiser Saturday in Oakland.
“Being black ain’t easy, and I want to tell our chief thank you for the apology,” Wesson said.
Kirkpatrick pledged her support for the group’s work, while also saying sorry for the fractured yet improving relationship between police and the black community.
“We need to begin with healing and restoring trust,” Kirkpatrick said. “And restoring trust begins with honestly acknowledging we’ve caused hurt and pain.”
But the police department also does a lot of good.
Several of its officers are program mentors.
Officer Robert Smith is the program director and a product of the foster system in Maryland.
He can relate to youth growing up without a father.
“And, if you’re genuine, they’ll feel you’re genuine, and you know, they’ll end up trusting you,” Smith said.
Just ask Wesson, who said he was angry at the world, after his father abandoned him, his mother and four brothers.
He credits Deputy Northcross and the OK Program for providing an avenue that steadied the course.
“As a black man in America, to have that man come and talk to you, and put you up on game and inspire and motivate you to be your greatest self, even when you live in a low income community, and you might not have your father — I think it’s beyond powerful,” Wesson said.
A program model that continues to make a difference.
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