STOCKTON — Rays of warm sunshine burst through the dark, heavy clouds hanging over the San Joaquin County Fairgrounds on Saturday afternoon, representing a ray of hope for those trying to bring brighter days to the troubled south Stockton community.
Hundreds gathered at the fairgrounds for the Reinvent South Stockton Coalition Summit, where speakers focused on a range of issues from crime and public safety to housing, health care, education and jobs. City Councilman Michael Tubbs, who served as the master of ceremonies, said the event was a positive step toward a better way of life on Stockton’s south side, which has been plagued by violent crime, drug use and other problems.
Darius Williamson, a resident outreach worker with Reinvent South Stockton, also said the summit was a success.
“We’ve seen how Stockton has turned with violence all over the place,” Williamson said. “We want to change that. We want to bring the community together so we can make a difference in life. It’s important for us to come together, and seeing everybody here shows me that they care, they want to make a change, they want to make a difference. This is where it starts.”
For the past few months, Williamson has been going door to door, engaging community members in discussion in an attempt to rally support for Reinvent South Stockton. He was handing out flyers at the Stockton Flea Market on Thursday when he encountered a man who was reluctant to listen.
“He said, ‘No, man, I don’t want one of them flyers.’ He didn’t believe that Reinvent South Stockton or any of us could make a difference,” Williamson said. “I said, ‘It starts with you. It starts with me. We can make a difference.’ So he stopped, he gave me some time and we began to converse, and he had a lot to say about City Hall, our school system and our community.”
When Williamson arrived at the fairgrounds on Saturday, he was delighted to see that man, 54-year-old Jose Andrade, sitting at one of the tables.
“I saw him and I said, ‘Hey, I just wanted to say thank you for showing up,’ and he stood up and gave me a big hug,” Williamson said.
Andrade said he was glad he decided to attend the summit.
“I’ve seen so many things in Stockton that we need to change,” Andrade said. “If we all get together, we can make everything change. If we get together, we can do it.”